Links for 29th October 2009

Fresh from the clogged tubes of teh intarwubs…

  1. Brain scanners can tell what you’re thinking about

    "Last week at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago, Jack Gallant, a leading "neural decoder" at the University of California, Berkeley, presented one of the field's most impressive results yet. He and colleague Shinji Nishimoto showed that they could create a crude reproduction of a movie clip that someone was watching just by viewing their brain activity. Others at the same meeting claimed that such neural decoding could be used to read memories and future plans – and even to diagnose eating disorders."

    Tagged with: sciencepsychologybrainneurosciencescanningmemoryneural-decoding

  2. How habitable is the Earth?

    "I want you to imagine that, instead of being a perplexed mostly-hairless primate reading a blog, you're the guiding intelligence of an interstellar robot probe. You've been entrusted with the vital mission of determining whether a target planet is inhabitable by members of your creator species, who bear an eerie resemblance to H. Sapiens Sapiens. To gauge the suitability of the target world you've been given an incubator that can generate decorticated human clones — breathing meat-machines with nobody home up top. When you get to the destination you're going to transfer them to the surface and see how long they survive. If it can make it through 24 hours (or one diurnal period), congratulations! — you've found a potential colony world; one so hospitable that a naked and clueless human doesn't die on their first day out."

    Tagged with: Charlie-Strossspaceplanetshabitabilitystatisticslifeexoplanetologyhuman

  3. Humans, Shmumans: What Mars Needs Is an Armada of Robots and Blimps

    "To test how teams of autonomous robots working together could explore an area, Fink’s team built a miniature lab version of the system, as seen in the image above. At just 4 feet by 5 feet, it’s not exactly the surface of Mars, but it allowed the team to test a piece of software that picks out anomalous objects in a landscape, the Automatic Global Feature Analyzer.

    The software doesn’t try to place what it reads in images into known categories. Surveying a scene, it doesn’t try to identify certain kind of rocks or geological features. Instead, it just looks for the odd stuff out — the Waldo — in the scene. For a place like Mars, where we know a lot of the territory is similar and seemingly lifeless, the weird stuff is probably the good stuff.

    “If you do not know what you will encounter, you have to embrace the unknown,” Fink said." Wise words, there.

    Tagged with: spaceexplorationMarsrobotswarmarmadaairshiptechnology

  4. Multiplying universes: How many is the multiverse?

    "According to quantum physics, observers affect the systems they measure (see "Restricted view"). If observers are an integral part of the cosmic formula, then it may not matter how many universes exist – just how many a single observer can tell apart. If the observer is a person, that depends on how many bits of information the brain can process. "Based on the number of synapses in a typical brain, a human observer can register 10^16," says Linde. That means humans can differentiate 10^10^16 universes, which is much more manageable than the 10^10^10,000,000 Linde and Vanchurin found to start with." Well, that's me boggled for the evening.

    Tagged with: sciencequantumphysicsmultiversevacuum-stateuniverse

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