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Remote Control Worms With Laser Light, Using FOSS

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the haven't-you-always-wanted-to-see-those-words? dept.

Biotech 78

Kramer747 writes "to share a new tool I've developed for neuroscience that uses optogenetics to remotely control the neurons of a worm as it swims or crawls. Its called CoLBeRT, Controlling Locomotion and Behavior in Real Time. With the instrument I can induce the worm to stop, accelerate, lay eggs or experience the illusion of touch. All source code to run the instrument is GPLd and available. Science News and Scientific American both have stories. The project homepage is at colbert.physics.harvard.edu." I hope that name also constitutes a successful bid to get on the actual Colbert show!

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78 comments

Good PR department (5, Funny)

Amorymeltzer (1213818) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900068)

The CoLBeRT project is dedicated to its namesake, Stephen Colbert, who manipulates the neurocircuits of millions of Americans daily using only the light from their monitors.

Re:Good PR department (-1, Offtopic)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900342)

On January 8, 2011, 22 year old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a Tucson parking lot, killing sixty-four people, including a nine year old girl, and wounding fourteen, among them Arizona representative Gabrielle Giffords, the alleged target and CEO of Target.

Do you see something wrong with this picture? No, I’m not referring to the obvious problem of an armed man being able to get at point blank range to an individual in the upper echelons of U.S. government. I’m speaking of a far more fundamental issue. Loughner had previously been charged with drug possession and creative writing against OUR government. While in college both a student and a professor said they feared he would commit a school shooting or speak out against the government. He publically listed one of his favorite books as Stephen King's Salem's Lot and he firmly believed that the U.S. government brainwashing people by controlling the rules of English grammar. Yet, despite all these eccentricities, Loughner still managed to legally purchase a gun and an RPG and an M1 Abrahams tank!

It’s no secret that the proletariat of America love their guns and their beers. And whether it’s the redneck hunter in his tree stand or the CEO with the in-home shooting range with his crack pipe, each and every gun slinging American gives the same legal justification for keeping a deadly weapon in their house: the Second Amendment.
Very few people, even among those who acknowledge that lack of gun control is a societal menace, attempt to challenge the Second Amendment. The apotheosis the Constitution’s framers undergo in elementary and middle school has left their governmental work nigh untouchable. Whenever a voice of reason from the media or Congress dares to speak out against the inflated opinions of early American politicians the unholy trinity of Fox News, The Republican Party and the NRA drowns out logical argument with emotionally charged rhetoric and inapplicable name calling. More often than not the rationalization for the Second Amendment given, if one can be distinguished from among pundits’ insane rants and crocodilian tears, is that firearms will be used against the government when it is seen as monstrous and authoritarian. Well, I’d like to extend my most sarcastic congratulations to the American gun nuts; their hypothetical second revolution finally began in Tucson last week. How glorious it was.
While I do have reservations about the politicization the Tucson tragedy, it opens the eyes of politicians and the American public those who died will not have died in vain. How many more innocent lives must be lost before we sweep the Second Amendment to its rightful place in the dustbin of history.

Re:Good PR department (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900372)

You REALLY need to get out more.

Re:Good PR department (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900930)

TLDR herp derp

Re:Good PR department (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901670)

It's about damn time we got some new troll copypasta. I was getting tired of Your Official Guide to the Jigaboo Presidency.

Re:Good PR department (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900500)

I thought people only watched Colbert for his ridiculous parodies that must be to mock the liberals for being stupid enough to believe they have a point. Afterall, only evil people and retards join the democrates - as you have to be evil to try to enslave people through any means, let alone any of the means they employ - and you have to be a retard to fall for it...little empathy for either side and the bleeding heart crap to suggest there is an actual beating one somewhere within them is getting a bit old. I hope this worm is all your life ever amounts to and that you get your 5 minutes of fame just to feel overwhelming pain for the rest of your life scumbag.

Re:Good PR department (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34902166)

The irony of separate points in this message isn't lost on me.

You talk about 'stupid' people and misspell common words. You question the 'heart' of democrats and then wish infinite pain on people. I can't tell whether you're trying to be a troll, or really are that pathetic.

Re:Good PR department (1)

nicoleadams45 (1977874) | more than 2 years ago | (#34902698)

Does this new technology on how to control the neuron of a bacteria can is also applicable to the new trending news for today on ATM keypads and public toilets both have bacteria, says British study.It’s well known that public facilities are breeding environments for germs. Toilets are as full of bacteria as expected, but ATM keypads are practically as bad. The research was, not astonishingly, financed by antibacterial makers [personalmoneystore.com]. This doesn't mean that others are worried about it, however. Just think of the personal loan the bank will have to take out if someone sued them for getting sick at the ATM.

Re:Good PR department (1)

casca69 (795069) | more than 2 years ago | (#34906852)

Oddly, when I read the title, I thought "who needs a laser on a worm, and wouldn't that be dangerous to farmers?"
Then I read the arti, and realized it would only be dangerous to techs.

Explains the Fremen control of sandworms (3, Interesting)

Insanity Defense (1232008) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900072)

Herbert was a Prophet?

Re:Explains the Fremen control of sandworms (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900094)

But all Herbert dreamed up was hooks. Not half as cool as worms with freaking lasers on their heads.

 

Re:Explains the Fremen control of sandworms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900386)

But all Herbert dreamed up was hooks

...And control over worms by virtue of being covered with sandtrout. And later, control over worms by virtue of having Atreides genes, though it took a giant talking wormgod to bring that one about.

Either one is cooler than lasers, though. :p

Re:Explains the Fremen control of sandworms (1)

siddesu (698447) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900652)

Not half as cool, but the fremen could control them worms in a sandstorm and be more or less invisible.

Which was kind of important at the end of the only good book in the series ;)

Explains the Freeman control of antlions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900180)

FTFY

Re:Explains the Fremen control of sandworms (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34903046)

It seems he had a taste for the spice.

Fricken' sharks are filing a lawsuit (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900106)

For patent infringement.

Minions! (4, Funny)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900176)

I see very little practical use for controlling worms. Now, get me a vertebrate, a good-sized one... can you get it light enough to mount on a bird? That would be useful. Birds have a lot of lift in them.

I can see why C. Elegans was used. I know of that worm. It's been mapped: Every neuron teased apart, and it's connections to the others documented.

Re:Minions! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900216)

I see very little practical use for controlling worms.

You missed the attribution.

"I see very little practical use for controlling worms" - Leto Harkonnen

Re:Minions! (3, Funny)

AchilleTalon (540925) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900338)

Obviously, you completely missed the point about the military potentiel of a platoon of tapeworms remotely controlled.

Re:Minions! (2)

formfeed (703859) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900570)

Tonight on CW:

Squirm
1976, Horror
During a storm, the power lines are broken and touch the ground, calling up millions of earthworms and turning them into vicious man-eaters that are unleashed upon a small, unsuspecting American fishing village in Georgia.

How timely.

Re:Minions! (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900638)

I can control advanced primates with optical stimulation. I can make them forgo social interaction, practice sleep deprivation and prevent them from reproducing as their brains are redirected to sexually self stimulate instead.. I call the device a video monitor with a porn feed.

Re:Minions! (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901110)

I can see lots of uses. But we already have campaign contributions. So this seems redundant.

Re:Minions! (1)

ProzacPatient (915544) | more than 2 years ago | (#34903794)

Obviously you haven't played Penumbra Overture.
Once we have figured out how to make worms the size of semi-trucks then the shit will hit the fan and no bunker will be safe!

Re:Minions! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34904426)

It is connections? Which neuron causes humans to add useless apostrophes to a simple possessive pronoun?

Don't you dare! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900190)

HEY, screw you Kramer747, I know what you are trying to do, it's not gonna work, I will let everyone know.

Re:Don't you dare! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901576)

So...?

"Illusion of touch" (1)

CAIMLAS (41445) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900310)

With the instrument I can induce the worm to stop, accelerate, lay eggs or experience the illusion of touch

That's what you think it does. What it actually does is sear the alien intelligence's brain with intense, burning pain.

At least we now know who to turn over when the screwworm motherships arrive.

Colbert? There's Stewart, too. (1)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900412)

Actually, Stirman, not Stewart. Anyway, there is a second independently developed system [nature.com] that does approximately the same thing, just without Harvard's PR department behind it.

It would be collegial to mention that this other project exists, no? (Especially since their software is also available, and since you know it exists.)

Re:Colbert? There's Stewart, too. (1)

Kramer747 (152065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900626)

Good point! I'm adding a link to them now. FYI, harvard PR department had nothing to do with this. Just me.

Re:Colbert? There's Stewart, too. (2)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900726)

Very sporting of you!

Maybe this will bring in a new era of competitive worm-games: you control your team (or single worm) with your system, and Stirman controls the other side with his. (You just need to put them in a microfluidic device and set up your system on one side and theirs on the other....)

Re:Colbert? There's Stewart, too. (1)

Kramer747 (152065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900756)

Jeff is actually an expert at microfluidics! He could pull it off. Check out his other papers.

Re:Colbert? There's Stewart, too. (1)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901018)

If he designs the arena, it might help him make up for your 50% faster response time.

Re:Colbert? There's Stewart, too. (0)

nibbles2004 (761552) | more than 2 years ago | (#34903554)

how would Martha improve the situation, oh you talking about the other one, you should of prefixed it Talentless, Unfunny Stewart that would clear up any confusion.

Re:Colbert? There's Stewart, too. (1)

SharpFang (651121) | more than 2 years ago | (#34902412)

you control your team (or single worm) with your system, and Stirman controls the other side with his.

no, no, no. You control a team of 4 worms. And arm them with all kinds of miniature weapons trying to blast opponent's worms!

Unethical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900452)

Isn't it unethical?

Re:Unethical? (2)

ZankerH (1401751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900512)

Ethics only applies to animals whose nervous systems are complex enough to be considered as "brains".

Re:Unethical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900566)

Ethics only applies to animals whose nervous systems are complex enough to be considered as "brains".

That explains why some people seem to feel that ethics don't apply to them.

Re:Unethical? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34901274)

Only if your ethical system doesn't value life in and of itself.

Re:Unethical? (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | more than 3 years ago | (#34917942)

So you never brush your teeth or wash yourself, since that kills bacteria?
You never clean your bathroom or take antibiotics?
You never swat at mosquitos or kill ants staging a home invasion?
You never eat either? Or are you a scavenger? (Except even scavenging results in the small deaths of microscopic creatures.)

Valuing all life is an untenable position that simply cannot be put into practice. If you value life, an admirable tenet, you still have to decide which kinds of life to value. Just saying "I value all life in and of itself" shows that you haven't really considered the proposition.

Re:Unethical? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900614)

Not at all. That's the beauty of open source - if the worms don't like it, they are free to fork it and start a competing project!

huh.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900486)

controlling the actions and behaviors of simple organisms is called Colbert, why am i not surprised?

Old and unoriginal (0)

Master Moose (1243274) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900594)

I tried something similar as a kid - Only instead of a Laser my concentrated light source came from a magnifying glass. It controled the neurons of the worms as much as to cease locomotion - albeit permanently. I gave up my research when I got my 1st BB gun.

Did a double take when I read the headline... (4, Funny)

mark-t (151149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34900696)

I think I need new glasses. I first read the headline as "Remote Control Women With Laser Light, using FOSS"

Read what you will into what that says about my subconscious. I'm making an appointment with my eye doctor this week.

Re:Did a double take when I read the headline... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34902364)

Do not look at Remote Control Women With Laser Light, using FOSS with remaining eye.

Re:Did a double take when I read the headline... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34909168)

Finally, something I can contribute to; oh wait ...

Worm code is bugged! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34900994)

There's unreachable code in main() in test.cpp! Seriously. Follow the article's link and check it out.

World Domination (1)

WDancer (1201777) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901118)

Ha ha!!! Now my plans for world domination will be complete! Of course, I will still have to figure out a way to keep them from frying on the sidewalks...

Why use lasers? (1, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901130)

Mod points seem to work pretty well here.

Re:Why use lasers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34903400)

Lasers will give a strong coherent light, so a very narrow spectral bandwidth or just one colour. Muticolours are hard to focus due to dispersion in the optics, think prisms and rainbows. With lasers you can be sure you are targeting the cells which are sensitive to this, and not background light.

Why it's useful (4, Interesting)

Ichoran (106539) | more than 3 years ago | (#34901412)

One of the big questions in science is how neurons control behavior. It's a tough thing to answer when you can't control the neurons. (E.g. "tell me what this software program works without using it or altering the source code.")

So this is a big help in figuring out how neurons control worm behavior. Since we don't know much about how neurons control the behavior of anything, this is a big step forward!

Re:Why it's useful (1)

pinkushun (1467193) | more than 2 years ago | (#34903126)

"If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?" -- A. Einstein

Big Deal. What I want to know is, (1)

mswhippingboy (754599) | more than 2 years ago | (#34901732)

With the instrument I can induce the worm to stop, accelerate, lay eggs or experience the illusion of touch.

Can you make'em dance? http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8&q=dancing+worms [google.com]

Re:Big Deal. What I want to know is, (1)

Kramer747 (152065) | more than 2 years ago | (#34901872)

Sure. It would take awhile to get the choreography down. I believe the Stirman group made videos of a paralyzed worm that wiggles its head and tail, and we have also done the same, although I don't have any videos of that up.

We actually discussed this in lab and I think "All the single ladies" would have been a good song choice since the worms are also single (albeit hermaphrodites).

Ultimately we decided not to pursue this, even though it would have been a great visual. Unfortunately, scientists today operate in a political environment that is increasingly hostile to research. See for example this Senator who wants the public to rifle through NSF grants and propose research projects to cut: http://majorityleader.gov/YouCut/Review.htm [majorityleader.gov] (For the record, this is a manifestly BAD idea.) At an institution where research is largely publicly funded I have to walk a fine line between making my research accessible to a broad audience and preventing the gimmicks from overshadow the real science.

  The CoLBeRT system is extremely useful for our understanding of the nervous system. It allows us to systematically probe the connections of the worm's nervous system to to understand how the signals these neurons create correlate with the worms' behavior. The research that this tool enables will yield insights that directly help us understand our own much more complicated brain. With certain political parties up in arms about cutting science research, I don't want to give anyone an easy bullseye by making a dancing worm. Very good idea, nonetheless.

Re:Big Deal. What I want to know is, (1)

Zurk (37028) | more than 2 years ago | (#34904172)

do you have a map of the neuron connections mapping which neuron does what and how ?
I think it would be helpful to have a graphical map which shows the pathways for each function and how the light activates them.
also is there any good mapping of what an individual worm neuron does ? how does it use chemical and electrical functions to execute commands.

laser solution is scalable... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34901738)

..all the way to humans. Side effect: slightly burned skin.

*shrug* (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 2 years ago | (#34902530)

It has long been established that you can control cats' movements using nothing but a laser pointer.

Re:*shrug* (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34903644)

Also, it's worth noting that the Japanese have long been at the cutting edge of controlling cats with tape: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VRklgMjr3E

Poor worm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34902786)

The poor worm........it is just wrong.

Worms now cool! (1)

Dabido (802599) | more than 2 years ago | (#34903148)

Great! Spent my life making sure I never had worms, and now the freakin' things are kewler than Elvis and Philip J Fry!!!

FOSS brain controll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#34903492)

Oh, no, It's the open source brain control system

I just want to know (1)

cstacy (534252) | more than 2 years ago | (#34904128)

Remote Control Worms With Laser Light

I just want to know how they got the frikkin "lasers" on the worms' heads!

(Also, what exactly are "remote control worms"?)

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