Category Archives: Science & Technology

DARPA test finds running electrical currents through scalp improves video game skills

In a study funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA), scientists at the University of New Mexico hooked subjects up to electrical currents which were generated through sponges attached to their temples.

Whilst playing DARWARS AMBUSH!, a training game designed to help soldiers train for service in Iraq, the subjects’ performance improved when they were running on batteries. This process is called transcranial direct-current stimulation (tCDS).

Neuroscientists Vincent Clarke said that the group that received two milliamps of electricity to the brain showed twice as much improvement over a short period of time compared to the group that received the lesser amount.

“The learn more quickly but they don’t have a good intuitive or introspective sense about why,” Dr Clarke told science journal, Nature.

Picture: Wikipedia, Flickr user soldiersmediacentre

Picture: Wikipedia, Flickr user soldiersmediacentre

Yesterday’s future-TODAY!

Think of how far Technology has advanced in this last century; one hundred years ago the knapsack parachute was invented, a device that would change the ways wars were fought and made flying a little less dangerous, John Browning finished designing his revolutionary pistol, the Colt M1911, and CRT Television was invented, bravely stepping into a world of projector screens and radios.  Those inventions created huge paradigm shifts in the way people could move, could entertain themselves, and kill. In our modern day and age, the vast majority of inventions are catered towards our need to entertain ourselves, many of them beyond the wildest dreams of futurologists. Our tech has expanded to the point were soon we will be able to do some of the things that comic book heroes could never have dreamed of. Remember watching Star-Wars as a kid and seeing Darth Vader get mad over some missing data tapes? The scene looks a whole lot less badass now and way more laughable when you consider that few people even use tapes anymore. Hell, Darth Vader’s suit is in many ways a relic, artificial muscles have been invented and while they haven’t made any arms able to outperform the real deal, they are definitely the kind of prosthetic I’d want. Closer to home with our technologies, we find our soldiers outfitted with cameras and gps’s on their helmets and backpacks, their performance monitored and evaluated, their position, as long as these systems last, known at all times. If it were not for the miserly attitude of the Millitary Industrial Complex, we would see this equipment on all American soldiers, and possibly all of their allies soldier’s too. Such technology has positive benefits; the ability to provide soldiers with advanced tactical information plus giving the staff members a better idea for what is going on in the field.

image of a US Army soldier in 2001, outfitted with the then latest technologies for the land warrior project.

File:Land Warrior Iraq 071307.jpg

Land Warrior as used by a member of he 4th Battalion, 9th Infantry, in Iraq, 2007.


Unfortunately such technology could also be used to paint an unflattering view of the soldiers enemies, or the soldiers themselves. The future it seems, could involve simply ‘tagging’ soldiers with micro or even nano chips and using their biometric data, track their performance and increase their capabilities by responding with the proper kinds of drug or mental therapies.  Heck by counteracting the fatigue poisons that build up in the human body, and with injections of cortisol and adrenaline you could potentialy create super soldiers who can run faster, longer and hit harder like steve Rogers, the Original Captain America (albeit with tempers more like wolverine). Unfortunately with all this new technology we have created a new generation of men, no longer do we look to the strong or the brave, but rather, to the capable; who the hell knows how to build a car, or how the components work?  How would we work if one or more of our currently placed systems broke down. Who do the incapable turn to, when machines make other machines, the job of people simply to maintain the makers. Is this technology that enables us to know what another is doing, feeling, at any moment all the time a true replacement for the human desire for contact or are we all becoming like superman, all knowing, known by all, and yet anonymous, alone.

Images Taken from Wikimedia Commons/


Why is IBM’s WATSON – named WATSON? “It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson”

I was having a moment to critically think about IBM’s new Jeopardy playing supercomputer and realised some quite interesting.

Jeopardy! is an American game show featuring trivia in history, literature, the arts, pop culture, science, sports, geography, wordplay, and more. The show has a unique answer-and-question format in which contestants are presented with clues in the form of answers, and must phrase their responses in question form.

The basic function of WATSON, is to process data and generate questions. Computers usually answer questions. They take input and calculate a yes or no answer. WATSON asks questions. It has to, to be able to determine whether or not its answer is correct on the game show.

Using the story of Sherlock Holmes and his pal Watson, one could compare their combined detective prowess with the functionality of the human brain. Each Character represents a hemisphere of the brain.

The usual dialogue between these two individuals usually goes down like this:

Watson: “But how did “<example >> do this?”

(right hemisphere)
*creative idea generator

Sherlock: “It’s Elementary, My Dear Watson”

(left hemisphere)
*logic calculator

Using this basic dialogue example, and hopefully your child hood memories of Sherlock Holmes, you can see the basic relationship between the two halves of your brain.

Why you should listen to her:

One morning, a blood vessel in Jill Bolte Taylor’s brain exploded. As a brain scientist, she realized she had a ringside seat to her own stroke. She watched as her brain functions shut down one by one: motion, speech, memory, self-awareness …

Amazed to find herself alive, Taylor spent eight years recovering her ability to think, walk and talk. She has become a spokesperson for stroke recovery and for the possibility of coming back from brain injury stronger than before. In her case, although the stroke damaged the left side of her brain, her recovery unleashed a torrent of creative energy from her right. From her home base in Indiana, she now travels the country on behalf of the Harvard Brain Bank as the “Singin’ Scientist.”

“How many brain scientists have been able to study the brain from the inside out? I’ve gotten as much out of this experience of losing my left mind as I have in my entire academic career.”

Jill Bolte Taylor


On February 10, 1996, Deep Blue became the first machine to win a chess game against a reigning world champion (Garry Kasparov) under regular time controls. However, Kasparov won three and drew two of the following five games, beating Deep Blue by a score of 4–2 (wins count 1 point, draws count ½ point). The match concluded on February 17, 1996.

Deep Blue was then heavily upgraded (unofficially nicknamed “Deeper Blue”)[11] and played Kasparov again in May 1997, winning the six-game rematch 3½–2½, ending on May 11. Deep Blue won the deciding game six after Kasparov made a mistake in the opening, becoming the first computer system to defeat a reigning world champion in a match under standard chess tournament time controls.

The system derived its playing strength mainly out of brute force computing power. It was a massively parallel, RS/6000 SP Thin P2SC-based system with 30-nodes, with each node containing a 120 MHz P2SC microprocessor for a total of 30, enhanced with 480 special purpose VLSI chess chips. Its chess playing program was written in C and ran under the AIX operating system. It was capable of evaluating 200 million positions per second, twice as fast as the 1996 version. In June 1997, Deep Blue was the 259th most powerful supercomputer according to the TOP500 list, achieving 11.38 GFLOPS on the High-Performance LINPACK benchmark.

WATSON is the RIGHT hemisphere of Joshua Blue’s brain. The LEFT hemisphere is Deep Blue.


Project Joshua Blue is an IBM project with the goal of enhancing artificial intelligence through the development of better common sense reasoning, natural language understanding, and emotional intelligence capacities.

This paper contrasts the implementation of motivation and emotion in Project Joshua Blue with current approaches such as Breazeal’s (2001) sociable robots. Differences in our implementation support our different goals for model performance and are made possible by a novel system architecture.

Overview of Joshua Blue
Project Joshua Blue applies ideas from complexity theory and evolutionary computational design to the simulation of mind on a computer. The goal is to enhance artificial intelligence by evolving such capacities as common sense reasoning, natural language understanding, and emotional intelligence, acquired in the same manner as humans acquire them, through learning situated in a rich environment.


Project Joshua Blue: Design considerations for evolving an emotional mind in a simulated environment. N Alvarado, S Adams, S Burbeck, C Latta, Proceedings of the 2001 AAAI Fall Symposium Emotional and …, 2001 –

WOW, that is comforting, almost like this youtube video.

and this one:

Notice the screencap below, as soon as the man boards the ship, he immediately heads to dismantle the LOGIC part of HAL‘s personality.

For more reading about Kubrick’s film 2001:  A Space Oddessey, watch the clip below, Joshua Blue was mention @ the 2001 AAAI Fall Symposium

Transhumanism takes a step in the right direction

MORE than 1500 years after the invention of the wheelchair, there is new hope that those paralysed by everything from car accidents to sniper’s bullets can walk again, Fox News Channel reported yesterday.

The Israeli made “Rewalk” has just received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval and soon will help wounded American soldiers get back on their feet.

The device is a set of mechanical legs attached to a backpack battery system that allows a paralyzed patient to “walk” all day. “I can’t believe sometime I’d walk… I can’t believe it. In dreams if I got to dream, I walked,” said Radi Kaiuf.

A sniper’s bullet paralysed him nearly 20 years ago, and doctors told him he would never walk again. Now he’s walking around and even climbing stairs.

The developers had to strike a balance between the man and the machine – the machine has to move the man, but the man has to control the machine.

It uses a simple remote control worn like a wristwatch. When the user puts it in “walk” mode and leans forward, the legs start walking. Leaning back stops the device.

It has taken nearly a decade to perfect the technology that Amit Goffer came up with in his garage, and its much more than simply a business.

“From the point of view of the disabled person it’s self esteem, the dignity of the person,” he said. “I mean sitting, being in a height of a child, a grown up in a height of a child is difficult.”

IBM prepares for machine vs. man ‘Jeopardy!’ showdown..

What is Watson?

Watson represents the latest in a long line of groundbreaking innovations from a company dedicated to building a Smarter Enslaved Planet. IBM Chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano explains how this technology will impact* the way humans communicate with computers in the near future. *totally dominate and suppress

IBM prepares for machine vs. man ‘Jeopardy!’ showdown

Researchers at IBM are preparing a supercomputer named Watson to compete on the popular quiz show Jeopardy! next month.

Watson has already won a practice round on the show against two top contestants, showing artificial intelligence has come a long way in simulating how humans think.

Watson, who is named after legendary International Business Machines President Thomas Watson, is a showcase of the company’s computing expertise and research in advanced science.

It also shows IBM — which turns 100 years old this year — wants to stay at the forefront of technology, even as companies such as Google Inc. and Apple Inc. have become the industry’s popular leaders.

IBM says the ability to understand language makes Watson far more evolved than Deep Blue, the company’s supercomputer which won against world chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

The biggest challenge for IBM scientists was teaching Watson to differentiate between literal and metaphorical expressions and understanding puns and slang.

Feeding it knowledge was easier. Watson is not plugged into the Internet, but has a database covering a broad range of topics, including history and entertainment. Ok this is a bit scary, imagine if it WAS hooked up to the internet!

Humans $4,600, Watson $4,400 in Jeopardy! Beta Test Round

As The Four Hundred has previously reported, IBM‘s question-answer supercomputer, known as Watson after Big Blue’s founder, Thomas Watson, is gearing up for a contest of wits against two top players of the Jeopardy! game show for three days February. To give the human contestants a chance to see what they are up against, IBM held a single round of the game at its TJ Watson Research Center last week.

Watson beats humans in Jeopardy! dry run

In a dry run that took place at a clone of the Jeopardy! game show set up at IBM’s TJ Watson Research Center, humanity didn’t do so well. (What did you expect?) In the practice round, Watson won $4,400 by stating questions, while Jennings won $3,400 and Rutter only won $1,200.

If you were betting on humanity in the upcoming grand challenge clash between humanity and IBM’s Watson question-answer (QA) supercomputer, you might want to start reconsidering your wager.

One of the things that freaked out chess champion Gary Kasparov when he initially played IBM’s Deep Blue supercomputer more than a decade ago was that he couldn’t “feel” the way the machine was thinking.

Specifically, the Watson QA software is running on 10 racks of these machines, which have a total of 2,880 Power7 cores and 15 TB of main memory spread across this system. The Watson QA system is not linked to any external data sources, but has a database of around 200 million pages of “natural language content,” which IBM says is roughly equivalent to the data stored in 1 million books. This data is stored in the main memory of the Watson machine, and the secret sauce is the software that allows Watson to listen to the statement, rummage around through its in-memory database, come up with the probable answer, hit the buzzer, and speak the question the statement answers. All in under three seconds. The Power 750 cluster is rated at 80 teraflops, which is a healthy amount of number-crunching power, but not outrageous by modern multi-petaflops standards.

To give Watson a face, IBM came up with an avatar that shows the earth and the graphical representation of IBM founder Thomas Watson’s “Think” admonition, which is the hash marks that denote a lightbulb going off. (The Watson super is named after Big Blue’s founder, and it is no accident that the Jeopardy! Grand Challenge is taking place during the company’s centennial year.) As Watson is thinking, the satellite lines on the avatar – what IBM calls “thought rays” – move faster and as the system is more confident of its answer, these lines turn green. The thought rays turn orange when Watson is wrong.

I wouldn’t bet on seeing a lot of orange thought rays in February.

IBM prepares for machine vs. man ‘Jeopardy!’ showdown

A win on the actual show, which goes on air Feb. 14, 15 and 16, would be a triumph for IBM, which spends around US$6 billion per year in research and development. An unspecified portion of that spending goes to what IBM calls “grand challenges,” or big, multi-year science projects such as Watson and Deep Blue.

See also: Joshua Blue & Diffuse Artificial Thought

Intel wants a chip implant in your brain

Computer chip maker Intel wants to implant a brain-sensing chip directly into the brains of its customers to allow them to operate computers and other devices without moving a muscle.

Intel believes its customers would be willing to have a chip implanted in their brains so they could operate computers without the need for a keyboard or mouse using thoughts alone. The implant could also be used to operate devices such as cell phones, TVs and DVDs.

The chip is being developed at Intel’s laboratory in Pittsburgh, USA. It would sense brain activity using technology based on FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The brain sensing chips are not yet available, but Intel research scientist Dean Pomerleau thinks they are close.

The app that can read your mind: iPhone brainwave detector

It’s a device that would be more at home on the set of a Star Wars movie than the streets of Britain. But an iPhone application has been developed that can read minds. The XWave allows users to control on-screen objects with their minds as well as train their brains to control attention spans and relaxation levels. The device – that could confuse Luke Skywalker himself – is the latest in the field of emerging mind-controlled games and devices and works via a headset strapped around the user’s forehead, plugging into the iPhone jack. A state-of-the-art sensor within the device can then read the user’s brainwaves through the skull, converting them into digital signals before displaying them in various colours on the iPhone screen.

U.S. Optical Camouflage Technology Exposed in Iraq

Is this real? Well its certainly under development. … =ADA477147

This report was prepared as a trade study review of current and projected active camouflage systems. While numerous applications were discussed, the focus was for systems that could be used by infantry soldiers, and specifically for infantry helmet applications. A review of the current and projected active camouflage systems revealed that there are many systems under development for aviation, maritime, and ground operations. Early prototypes for infantry soldiers were presented in detail. A system overview was prepared in order to present camera, image processing, and display solutions. Finally, a discussion focusing on technology limitations, applications, and future considerations was presented. This trade study showed that numerous technologies for active camouflage systems are under development; however major technical roadblocks must be addressed before systems will be ready for infantry applications.

‘Mind-reading machine’ can convert thoughts into speech

Researchers have been able to translate brain signals into speech using sensors attached to the surface of the brain for the first time.

The breakthrough, which is up to 90 per cent accurate, offers a way to communicate for paralysed patients who cannot speak and could eventually lead to being able to read anyone thoughts.