It might be possible to restore lost memories

Kurzweil AI - 2 hours 35 min ago

Synapse (credit: Curtis Neveu/Wikimedia Commons)

New UCLA research indicates that lost memories can be restored, offering hope for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

For decades, most neuroscientists have believed that memories are stored at the synapses — the connections between brain cells, or neurons — which are destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. The new study provides evidence contradicting the idea that long-term memory is stored at synapses.

“Long-term memory is not stored at the synapse,” said David Glanzman, a senior author of the study, and a UCLA professor of integrative biology and physiology and of neurobiology. “The nervous system appears to be able to regenerate lost synaptic connections. If you can restore the synaptic connections, the memory will come back. It won’t be easy, but I believe it’s possible.”

The findings were published recently in eLife, a highly regarded open-access online science journal.

Glanzman’s research team studies a type of marine snail called Aplysia to understand the animal’s learning and memory. The Aplysia displays a defensive response to protect its gill from potential harm, and the researchers are especially interested in its withdrawal reflex and the sensory and motor neurons that produce it.

They enhanced the snail’s withdrawal reflex by giving it several mild electrical shocks on its tail. The enhancement lasts for days after a series of electrical shocks, which indicates the snail’s long-term memory. Glanzman explained that the shock causes the hormone serotonin to be released in the snail’s central nervous system.

Long-term memory is a function of the growth of new synaptic connections caused by the serotonin, said Glanzman, a member of UCLA’s Brain Research Institute. As long-term memories are formed, the brain creates new proteins that are involved in making new synapses. If that process is disrupted — for example by a concussion or other injury — the proteins may not be synthesized and long-term memories cannot form.  (This is why people cannot remember what happened moments before a concussion.)

“If you train an animal on a task, inhibit its ability to produce proteins immediately after training, and then test it 24 hours later, the animal doesn’t remember the training,” Glanzman said.  “However, if you train an animal, wait 24 hours, and then inject a protein synthesis inhibitor in its brain, the animal shows perfectly good memory 24 hours later.  In other words, once memories are formed, if you temporarily disrupt protein synthesis, it doesn’t affect long-term memory. That’s true in the Aplysia and in human’s brains.”  (This explains why people’s older memories typically survive following a concussion.)

Glanzman’s team found the same mechanism held true when studying the snail’s neurons in a Petri dish. The researchers placed the sensory and motor neurons that mediate the snail’s withdrawal reflex in a Petri dish, where the neurons re-formed the synaptic connections that existed when the neurons were inside the snail’s body.  When serotonin was added to the dish, new synaptic connections formed between the sensory and motor neurons.  But if the addition of serotonin was immediately followed by the addition of a substance that inhibits protein synthesis, the new synaptic growth was blocked; long-term memory could not be formed.

The researchers also wanted to understand whether synapses disappeared when memories did. To find out, they counted the number of synapses in the dish and then, 24 hours later, added a protein synthesis inhibitor. One day later, they re-counted the synapses.

What they found was that new synapses had grown and the synaptic connections between the neurons had been strengthened; late treatment with the protein synthesis inhibitor did not disrupt the long-term memory. The phenomenon is extremely similar to what happens in the snail’s nervous system during this type of simple learning, Glanzman said.

Next, the scientists added serotonin to a Petri dish containing a sensory neuron and motor neuron, waited 24 hours, and then added another brief pulse of serotonin — which served to remind the neurons of the original training — and immediately afterward add the protein synthesis inhibitor.

This time, they found that synaptic growth and memory were erased. When they re-counted the synapses, they found that the number had reset to the number before the training, Glanzman said. This suggests that the “reminder” pulse of serotonin triggered a new round of memory consolidation, and that inhibiting protein synthesis during this “reconsolidation” erased the memory in the neurons.

Memory not stored in synapses

If the prevailing wisdom were true — that memories are stored in the synapses — the researchers should have found that the lost synapses were the same ones that had grown in response to the serotonin. But that’s not what happened: Instead, they found that some of the new synapses were still present and some were gone, and that some of the original ones were gone, too.

Glanzman said there was no obvious pattern to which synapses stayed and which disappeared, which implied that memory is not stored in synapses.

When the scientists repeated the experiment in the snail, and then gave the animal a modest number of tail shocks — which do not produce long-term memory in a naive snail — the memory they thought had been completely erased returned. This implies that synaptic connections that were lost were apparently restored.

“That suggests that the memory is not in the synapses but somewhere else,” Glanzman said. “We think it’s in the nucleus of the neurons. We haven’t proved that, though.”

Implications for Alzheimer’s-disease patients

Glanzman said the research could have significant implications for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, just because the disease is known to destroy synapses in the brain doesn’t mean that memories are destroyed.

“As long as the neurons are still alive, the memory will still be there, which means you may be able to recover some of the lost memories in the early stages of Alzheimer’s,” he said.

Glanzman added that in the later stages of the disease, neurons die, which likely means that the memories cannot be recovered.

The cellular and molecular processes seem to be very similar between the marine snail and humans, even though the snail has approximately 20,000 neurons and humans have about 1 trillion. Neurons each have several thousand synapses.

Glanzman used to believe that traumatic memories could be erased but he has changed his mind. He now believes that, because memories are stored in the nucleus, it may be much more difficult to modify them. He will continue to study how the marine snail’s memories are restored and how synapses re-grow.

Almost all the processes that are involved in memory in the snail also have been shown to be involved in memory in the brains of mammals, Glanzman said.

In a 1997 study published in the journal Science, Glanzman and colleagues identified a cellular mechanism in the Aplysia that plays an important role in learning and memory. A protein called N-methyl D-aspartate, or NMDA, receptor enhances the strength of synaptic connections in the nervous system and plays a vital role in memory and in certain kinds of learning in the mammalian brain as well. Glanzman’s demonstration that the NMDA receptor plays a critical role in learning in a simple animal like the marine snail was entirely unexpected at the time.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation.

Abstract of Reinstatement of long-term memory following erasure of its behavioral and synaptic expression in Aplysia

Long-term memory (LTM) is believed to be stored in the brain as changes in synaptic connections. Here, we show that LTM storage and synaptic change can be dissociated. Cocultures of Aplysia sensory and motor neurons were trained with spaced pulses of serotonin, which induces long-term facilitation. Serotonin (5HT) triggered growth of new presynaptic varicosities, a synaptic mechanism of long-term sensitization. Following 5HT training, two antimnemonic treatments-reconsolidation blockade and inhibition of PKM-caused the number of presynaptic varicosities to revert to the original, pretraining value. Surprisingly, the final synaptic structure was not achieved by targeted retraction of the 5HT-induced varicosities but, rather, by an apparently arbitrary retraction of both 5HT-induced and original synapses. In addition, we find evidence that the LTM for sensitization persists covertly after its apparent elimination by the same antimnemonic treatments that erase learning-related synaptic growth. These results challenge the idea that stable synapses store long-term memories.

Categories: Science

How a Massachusetts Man Invented the Global Ice Market

Slashdot - 2 hours 44 min ago
An anonymous reader writes with the story of Frederic Tudor the man responsible for the modern food industry. "A guy from Boston walks into a bar and offers to sell the owner a chunk of ice. To modern ears, that sounds like the opening line of a joke. But 200 years ago, it would have sounded like science fiction—especially if it was summer, when no one in the bar had seen frozen water in months. In fact, it's history. The ice guy was sent by a 20-something by the name of Frederic Tudor, born in 1783 and known by the mid-19th century as the "Ice King of the World." What he had done was figure out a way to harvest ice from local ponds, and keep it frozen long enough to ship halfway around the world. Today, the New England ice trade, which Tudor started in Boston's backyard in 1806, sounds cartoonishly old-fashioned. The work of ice-harvesting, which involved cutting massive chunks out of frozen bodies of water, packing them in sawdust for storage and transport, and selling them near and far, seems as archaic as the job of town crier. But scholars in recent years have suggested that we're missing something. In fact, they say, the ice trade was a catalyst for a transformation in daily life so powerful that the mark it left can still be seen on our cultural habits even today. Tudor's big idea ended up altering the course of history, making it possible not only to serve barflies cool mint juleps in the dead of summer, but to dramatically extend the shelf life and reach of food. Suddenly people could eat perishable fruits, vegetables, and meat produced far from their homes. Ice built a new kind of infrastructure that would ultimately become the cold, shiny basis for the entire modern food industry."

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Categories: Science

Librarians: The Google Before Google

Slashdot - 5 hours 55 min ago
An anonymous reader writes NPR has an article about the questions people ask librarians. Before the internet, the librarian was your best bet for a quick answer to anything on your mind. "We were Google before Google existed," NYPL spokesperson Angela Montefinise explains. "If you wanted to know if a poisonous snake dies if it bites itself, you'd call or visit us." The New York Public Library in Manhattan recently discovered a box of old reference questions asked by patrons and plans to release some in its Instagram account. Here are a few of the best: I just saw a mouse in the kitchen. Is DDT OK to use? (1946) What does it mean when you dream of being chased by an elephant? (1947)Can you tell me the thickness of a U.S. Postage stamp with the glue on it? Answer: We couldn't tell you that answer quickly. Why don't you try the Post Office? Response: This is the Post Office. (1963)Where can I rent a beagle for hunting? (1963)

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Categories: Science

An affordable holodeck for civil engineers

Kurzweil AI - 6 hours 37 min ago

VuePod (credit: BYU)

Brigham Young University (BYU) student civil engineers have constructed an affordable 3D immersive visualization system from commercial off-the-shelf components and open-source software.

The “VuePod” system uses 12 high-definition, 55-inch 3D televisions all connected to a computer capable of supporting high-end, graphics-intensive visualization.  Images are controlled by a Wii remote that interacts with a Kinect-like  3D tracking device called SMARTTRACK. 3D glasses worn by the user create the added dimension.

The VuePod allows users to virtually fly over, wander through, or hover above 3D environments that are otherwise difficult to visit. The images are created by point data from aircraft equipped with LIDAR (like RADAR, but with lasers), which scans the landscape and records millions of data points that can later be viewed represented as an image on the VuePod’s 108-square-foot screen. Point data can also be created from stitched-together photographs taken from low-cost drones.

One set of data currently available for study in the VuePod captured a canyon area beneath a plateau in southern Idaho. With 3D glasses and the Wii controller, a user can virtually drop down into the canyon from above, and then fly from one end to the other. For example, two sets of data for the same canyon, taken five years a part can show changes in the natural landscape that are normally invisible to the human eye.

The VuePod also has the potential to assist in infrastructure monitoring — such as tracking how highways hold up over time and seeing the affect on buildings after severe weather or earthquakes.

VuePod can’t compete with high-end systems like the Reality Deck at Stony Brook University (SBU), with 1.5 billion pixels shown on 416 super-high-resolution screens in a four-walled surround-view theater, driven by a 220 TFLOPs graphic supercomputer — the highest-resolution  immersive display ever built. But such system cost as much as $10 million to build and maintain, while BYU’s VuePod barely topped  $30,000.

At the other end of the resolution scale, Ovulus Rift comes in at under $400 for less than HD screen (960 x 1080 pixels per eye).

Abstract of Mobile, Low-Cost, and Large-Scale Immersive Data Visualization Environment for Civil Engineering Applications

This case study presents the design and development of a three-dimensional (3D) immersive visualization system constructed from commercial off-the-shelf components and open-source software that is intended to address the following key challenges for the practical use of immersive environments: (1) extreme costs in both hardware and software; (2) immobility due to calibration and darkroom requirements; and (3) extensive and expensive manpower requirements for both operation and maintenance. The system—called the VuePod—uses 12 consumer grade passive 3D television monitors, an active tracking system, and a modular construction approach. The VuePod capitalizes on recent functional advancements and cost decreases in both hardware and software and is demonstrated herein as a viable alternative to prohibitively expensive projector-based walk-in computer automatic virtual environments (CAVEs). The case study presents a full description of the hardware and its assembly, the software and its configuration, the modular structural system, results from benchmark computation and visualization tests, and a comparison to other several other immersive visualization systems in terms of cost, scale, pixel density, and system requirements.

Categories: Science

"Infrared Curtain" Brings Touchscreen Technology To Cheap Cars

Slashdot - 8 hours 1 min ago
An anonymous reader writes with news about an affordable way to integrate touch screen technology in any car. "Although touchscreen controls are appearing in the dashboards of an increasing number of vehicles, they're still not something that one generally associates with economy cars. That may be about to change, however, as Continental has announced an "infrared curtain" system that could allow for inexpensive multi-touch functionality in any automobile. The infrared curtain consists of a square frame with a series of LEDs along two adjacent sides, and a series of photodiodes along the other two. Each LED emits a beam of infrared light, which is picked up and converted into an electrical signal by the photodiode located in the corresponding spot on the opposite side of the frame."

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Categories: Science

Viacom's Messy Relationship With YouTube and The Rise of Stephen Colbert

Slashdot - 9 hours 12 min ago
Presto Vivace writes with this story about how Stephen Colbert became a YouTube Megastar. "Clips from The Colbert Report soon became a staple at YouTube, a startup that was making it easier for anyone and everyone to upload and watch home movies, video blogs, and technically-illicit-but-increasingly-vanilla clips of TV shows from the day before. And Colbert’s show was about to find itself at the center of a conflict between entertainment media and the web over online video that’s shaped the last decade. In fact, The Colbert Report has been defined as much by this back-and-forth between Hollywood and the web as by the cable news pundits it satirizes....A year after The Colbert Report premiere, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Five months later, Viacom sued YouTube and Google for copyright infringement, asking for $1 billion in damages. The value of these videos and their audiences were clear. The Colbert Report and “Stephen Colbert” are mentioned three times in Viacom’s complaint against YouTube, as much or more than any other show or artist."

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Categories: Science

Viacom's Messy Relationship With YouTube and The Rise of Stephen Colbert

Slashdot - 9 hours 12 min ago
Presto Vivace writes with this story about how Stephen Colbert became a YouTube Megastar. "Clips from The Colbert Report soon became a staple at YouTube, a startup that was making it easier for anyone and everyone to upload and watch home movies, video blogs, and technically-illicit-but-increasingly-vanilla clips of TV shows from the day before. And Colbert’s show was about to find itself at the center of a conflict between entertainment media and the web over online video that’s shaped the last decade. In fact, The Colbert Report has been defined as much by this back-and-forth between Hollywood and the web as by the cable news pundits it satirizes....A year after The Colbert Report premiere, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Five months later, Viacom sued YouTube and Google for copyright infringement, asking for $1 billion in damages. The value of these videos and their audiences were clear. The Colbert Report and “Stephen Colbert” are mentioned three times in Viacom’s complaint against YouTube, as much or more than any other show or artist."

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Categories: Science

Viacom's Messy Relationship With YouTube and The Rise of Stephen Colbert

Slashdot - 9 hours 12 min ago
Presto Vivace writes with this story about how Stephen Colbert became a YouTube Megastar. "Clips from The Colbert Report soon became a staple at YouTube, a startup that was making it easier for anyone and everyone to upload and watch home movies, video blogs, and technically-illicit-but-increasingly-vanilla clips of TV shows from the day before. And Colbert’s show was about to find itself at the center of a conflict between entertainment media and the web over online video that’s shaped the last decade. In fact, The Colbert Report has been defined as much by this back-and-forth between Hollywood and the web as by the cable news pundits it satirizes....A year after The Colbert Report premiere, Google acquired YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. Five months later, Viacom sued YouTube and Google for copyright infringement, asking for $1 billion in damages. The value of these videos and their audiences were clear. The Colbert Report and “Stephen Colbert” are mentioned three times in Viacom’s complaint against YouTube, as much or more than any other show or artist."

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Categories: Science

First successful vaccination against 'mad cow'-like wasting disease in deer

Science Daily - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 11:37pm
Researchers say that a vaccination they have developed to fight a brain-based, wasting syndrome among deer and other animals may hold promise on two additional fronts: protecting US livestock from contracting the disease, and preventing similar brain infections in humans.
Categories: Science

The Magic of Pallets

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 11:29pm
HughPickens.com writes Jacob Hodes writes in Cabinet Magazine that there are approximately two billion wooden shipping pallets in the holds of tractor-trailers in the United States transporting Honey Nut Cheerios and oysters and penicillin and just about any other product you can think of. According to Hodes the magic of pallets is the magic of abstraction. "Take any object you like, pile it onto a pallet, and it becomes, simply, a "unit load"—standardized, cubical, and ideally suited to being scooped up by the tines of a forklift. This allows your Cheerios and your oysters to be whisked through the supply chain with great efficiency; the gains are so impressive, in fact, that many experts consider the pallet to be the most important materials-handling innovation of the twentieth century." Although the technology was in place by the mid-1920s, pallets didn't see widespread adoption until World War II, when the challenge of keeping eight million G.I.s supplied—"the most enormous single task of distribution ever accomplished anywhere," according to one historian—gave new urgency to the science of materials handling. "The pallet really made it possible for us to fight a war on two fronts the way that we did." It would have been impossible to supply military forces in both the European and Pacific theaters if logistics operations had been limited to manual labor and hand-loading cargo. To get a sense of the productivity gains that were achieved, consider the time it took to unload a boxcar before the advent of pallets. "According to an article in a 1931 railway trade magazine, three days were required to unload a boxcar containing 13,000 cases of unpalletized canned goods. When the same amount of goods was loaded into the boxcar on pallets or skids, the identical task took only four hours." Pallets, of course, are merely one cog in the global machine for moving things and while shipping containers have had their due, the humble pallet is arguably "the single most important object in the global economy."

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Categories: Science

26 Foot Long Boat 3D Printed In 100,000 Different Pieces

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 10:16pm
First time accepted submitter Talk Prizes writes Hung-Chih Peng, a Taiwanese artist, has decided to 3D print a boat measuring 26 feet in length. The piece, called "The Deluge – Noah's Ark" is a twisted wrecked boat which he had to 3D print in 100,000 different pieces and then glue it all together. "...The Deluge is Peng’s way of showing the inability that humans have exhibited in rectifying uncontrollable catastrophic challenges. Climate change, ecological crises, and environmental pollution are all changes that this planet is facing, yet seemingly humans do not have a way to correct these problems. The work is meant as a metaphor for showing the battle being waged by Mother Nature on the accelerated development of industrialized civilization."

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Categories: Science

Cuba Says the Internet Now a Priority

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 9:10pm
lpress writes Cuba first connected to the Internet in 1996 through a Sprint link funded by the US National Science Foundation. A year later the Cuban government decided to contain and control it. Now they say the Internet is a priority. If so, they need a long term plan, but they can get started with low cost interim measures. There is virtually no modern infrastructure on the island, but they could aggressively deploy satellite technology at little cost and, where phone lines could support it, install DSL equipment.

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Categories: Science

Finland Announces an Anti-Laser Campaign For Air Traffic

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 8:03pm
jones_supa writes Trafi, the Finnish Pilots' Association, and STUK, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, have launched a joint campaign against air traffic interference with the title "Lasers Are Not Toys." Ilkka Kaakinen from Trafi says that laser pointers interfering with air traffic is a real problem in Finland. "We receive reports of several cases of laser interference every month and every one of them is potentially dangerous," Kaakinen says. Last year, 60 cases of laser pointer interference were reported in Finland, and the figure for this year was at 58 in November. Despite the continuing interference, only one person has been caught misusing a laser pointer in this way in Finland. That single person was not convicted of a crime, as the court was not able to establish intent. Kaakinen says other countries hand down severe punishments for interfering with air traffic, even years-long stretches in prison. He also reminds that it is important for users of laser pointers to understand that the devices are not toys, and that children should be warned of the potential danger in using them irresponsibly – or ideally, not given one at all.

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Categories: Science

Anonymous Claims They Will Release "The Interview" Themselves

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 7:56pm
An anonymous reader writes In a series of tweets the hacker collective Anonymous says they will release "The Interview" to the masses if Sony won't. A few of the tweets read: "Seriously @Sony we warned you. We infiltrated your systems long before North Korea. We thought you'd take it as a warning and fix your s@#t." and "We're not with either side, we just want to watch the movie too and soon you too will be joining us. Sorry, @SonyPictures."

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Categories: Science

Anonymous Claims They Will Release "The Interview" Themselves

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 7:56pm
An anonymous reader writes In a series of tweets the hacker collective Anonymous says they will release "The Interview" to the masses if Sony won't. A few of the tweets read: "Seriously @Sony we warned you. We infiltrated your systems long before North Korea. We thought you'd take it as a warning and fix your s@#t." and "We're not with either side, we just want to watch the movie too and soon you too will be joining us. Sorry, @SonyPictures."

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Categories: Science

Anonymous Claims They Will Release "The Interview" Themselves

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 7:56pm
An anonymous reader writes In a series of tweets the hacker collective Anonymous says they will release "The Interview" to the masses if Sony won't. A few of the tweets read: "Seriously @Sony we warned you. We infiltrated your systems long before North Korea. We thought you'd take it as a warning and fix your s@#t." and "We're not with either side, we just want to watch the movie too and soon you too will be joining us. Sorry, @SonyPictures."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Anonymous Claims They Will Release "The Interview" Themselves

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 7:56pm
An anonymous reader writes In a series of tweets the hacker collective Anonymous says they will release "The Interview" to the masses if Sony won't. A few of the tweets read: "Seriously @Sony we warned you. We infiltrated your systems long before North Korea. We thought you'd take it as a warning and fix your s@#t." and "We're not with either side, we just want to watch the movie too and soon you too will be joining us. Sorry, @SonyPictures."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Anonymous Claims They Will Release "The Interview" Themselves

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 7:56pm
An anonymous reader writes In a series of tweets the hacker collective Anonymous says they will release "The Interview" to the masses if Sony won't. A few of the tweets read: "Seriously @Sony we warned you. We infiltrated your systems long before North Korea. We thought you'd take it as a warning and fix your s@#t." and "We're not with either side, we just want to watch the movie too and soon you too will be joining us. Sorry, @SonyPictures."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Categories: Science

Anonymous Claims They Will Release "The Interview" Themselves

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 7:56pm
An anonymous reader writes In a series of tweets the hacker collective Anonymous says they will release "The Interview" to the masses if Sony won't. A few of the tweets read: "Seriously @Sony we warned you. We infiltrated your systems long before North Korea. We thought you'd take it as a warning and fix your s@#t." and "We're not with either side, we just want to watch the movie too and soon you too will be joining us. Sorry, @SonyPictures."

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Categories: Science

Judge: It's OK For Cops To Create Fake Instagram Accounts

Slashdot - Sun, 21/12/2014 - 6:50pm
An anonymous reader writes with a ruling that seems obvious in a case about police making a fake Instagram account. A federal judge in New Jersey has signed off on the practice of law enforcement using a fake Instagram account in order to become "friends" with a suspect — thus obtaining photos and other information that a person posts to their account. "No search warrant is required for the consensual sharing of this type of information," United States District Judge William Martini wrote in an opinion published last Tuesday. In other news, an undercover officer still doesn't need to tell you that he or she is a member of law enforcement if you ask.

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Categories: Science