California Votes To Ban Microbeads

Slashdot - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 11:55pm
New submitter Kristine Lofgren writes: The California Assembly just passed a vote to ban toxic microbeads, the tiny flecks found in toothpastes and exfoliants. Microbeads cause a range of problems, from clogging waterways to getting stuck in gums. The ban would be the strictest of its kind in the nation. As the article notes, the California Senate would need to pass a bill as well, for this ban to take effect, and if that happens, the resulting prohibition will come into place in 2020. From the article: Last year, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to pass a ban on the usage of microbeads in cosmetics, approving a law that will go into effect in 2018, and earlier this year two congressmen introduced a bipartisan bill to outlaw the use of microbeads nationwide. And for exceptionally good reason; the beads, which serve as exfoliants and colorants are a massive source of water pollution, with scientists estimating that 471 million plastic microbeads are released into San Francisco Bay alone every single day.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Robotic arm precisely controlled by thought

Kurzweil AI - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 11:40pm

Erik Sorto smoothly controls robotic arm with his brain (credit: Spencer Kellis and Christian Klaes /Caltech)

Paralyzed from the neck down, Erik G. Sorto now can smoothly move a robotic arm just by thinking about it, thanks to a clinical collaboration between Caltech, Keck Medicine of USC and Rancho Los Amigos National Rehabilitation Center,

Previous neural prosthetic devices, such as Braingate, were implanted in the motor cortex, resulting in delayed, jerky movements. The new device was implanted in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC), a part of the brain that controls the intent to move, not the movement directly.

That makes Sorto, who has been paralyzed for over 10 years, the first quadriplegic person in the world to perform a fluid hand-shaking gesture or play “rock, paper, scissors,” using a robotic arm.

In April 2013, Keck Medicine of USC surgeons implanted a pair of small electrode arrays in two parts of the posterior parietal cortex, one that controls reach and another that controls grasp.

Each 4-by-4 millimeter array contains 96 active electrodes that, in turn, each record the activity of single neurons in the PPC. The arrays are connected by a cable to a system of computers that process the signals, to decode the brain’s intent and control output devices, such as a computer cursor and a robotic arm.

Although he was able to immediately move the robot arm with his thoughts, after weeks of imagining, Sorto refined his control of the arm.

Now, Sorto is able to execute advanced tasks with his mind, such as controlling a computer cursor; drinking a beverage; making a hand-shaking gesture; and performing various tasks with the robotic arm.

Designed to test the safety and effectiveness of this new approach, the clinical trial was led by principal investigator Richard Andersen, the James G. Boswell Professor of Neuroscience at Caltech, neurosurgeon Charles Y. Liu, professor of neurological surgery and neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and biomedical engineering at USC, and neurologist Mindy Aisen, chief medical officer at Rancho Los Amigos.

Aisen, also a clinical professor of neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, says that advancements in prosthetics like these hold promise for the future of patient rehabilitation.

NeuroPort microelectrode array implanted in Erik Sorto’s posterior parietal cortex (credit: Blackrock Microsystems)

“This research is relevant to the role of robotics and brain-machine interfaces as assistive devices, but also speaks to the ability of the brain to learn to function in new ways,” Aisen said. “We have created a unique environment that can seamlessly bring together rehabilitation, medicine, and science as exemplified in this study.”

Sorto has signed on to continue working on the project for a third year. He says the study has inspired him to continue his education and pursue a master’s degree in social work.

The results of the clinical trial appear in the May 22, 2015, edition of the journal Science. The implanted device and signal processors used in the clinical trial were the NeuroPort Array and NeuroPort Bio-potential Signal Processors developed by Blackrock Microsystems in Salt Lake City, Utah. The robotic arm used in the trial was the Modular Prosthetic Limb, developed at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins.

This trial was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Boswell Foundation, the Department of Defense, and the USC Neurorestoration Center.

Caltech | Next Generation of Neuroprosthetics: Science Explained — R. Andersen May 2015

Keck Medicine of USC | Next Generation of Neuroprosthetics: Erik’s Story

Abstract of Decoding motor imagery from the posterior parietal cortex of a tetraplegic human

Nonhuman primate and human studies have suggested that populations of neurons in the posterior parietal cortex (PPC) may represent high-level aspects of action planning that can be used to control external devices as part of a brain-machine interface. However, there is no direct neuron-recording evidence that human PPC is involved in action planning, and the suitability of these signals for neuroprosthetic control has not been tested. We recorded neural population activity with arrays of microelectrodes implanted in the PPC of a tetraplegic subject. Motor imagery could be decoded from these neural populations, including imagined goals, trajectories, and types of movement. These findings indicate that the PPC of humans represents high-level, cognitive aspects of action and that the PPC can be a rich source for cognitive control signals for neural prosthetics that assist paralyzed patients.

Categories: Science

Gadget Lab Podcast: Spotify Sings a New Tune

Wired News - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 11:21pm

This week, the hosts go deep on the changes at Spotify.

The post Gadget Lab Podcast: Spotify Sings a New Tune appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science

WSJ Crowdsources Investigation of Hillary Clinton Emails

Slashdot - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 11:10pm
PvtVoid writes: The Wall Street Journal now has a page up that encourages readers to sift through and tag Hillary Clinton's emails on Benghazi. Users can click on suggested tags such as "Heated", "Personal", "Boring", or "Interesting", or supply their own tags. What could possibly go wrong? I'm tagging this story "election2016."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Protons Collide At 13 TeV For the First Time At the LHC

Slashdot - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader writes to let everyone know the LHC has now smashed protons together at 13 TeV, the highest energy level yet achieved. They've posted the first images captured from the collisions, and explained the testing process as well. Jorg Wenninger of the LHC Operations team says, "When we start to bring the beams into collision at a new energy, they often miss each other. The beams are tiny – only about 20 microns in diameter at 6.5 TeV; more than 10 times smaller than at 450 GeV. So we have to scan around – adjusting the orbit of each beam until collision rates provided by the experiments tell us that they are colliding properly." Spokesperson Tiziano Camporesi adds, "The collisions at 13 TeV will allow us to further test all improvements that have been made to the trigger and reconstruction systems, and check the synchronisation of all the components of our detector."

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Categories: Science

How Cities: Skylines Beat SimCity At Its Own Game

Slashdot - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 9:49pm
An anonymous reader writes: Maxis, the studio behind SimCity, was shuttered earlier this year. Fortunately, another studio has taken up its mantle. The small team at Colossal Order has already won acclaim for city-builder game Cities: Skylines (and sold millions), earning a great reputation with the modding community by avoiding all the mistakes the last SimCity release made, such as enforced online/multiplayer. A new behind the scenes feature looks at how the game came about — it was not a response to SimCity, surprisingly — as well as what's next from the studio. "We are planning to start another game project sometime soon," says Colossal CEO Mariina Hallikainen. "We definitely want to focus on old-school simulator games and definitely PC. PC, Mac and Linux, those are our 'thing.' But I think we're maybe going to do something a little bit different."

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Categories: Science

Birds 'weigh' peanuts and choose heavier ones

Science Daily - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 9:47pm
Mexican Jays (Aphelocoma wollweberi) distinguish between heavier and lighter peanuts without opening the nuts. The birds do it by shaking the nuts in their beaks, which allows them to 'feel' nut heaviness and to listen to sounds produced by peanuts during handling.
Categories: Science

From chicken to dinosaur: Scientists experimentally 'reverse evolution' of perching toe

Science Daily - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 9:45pm
A unique adaptation in the foot of birds is the presence of a thumb-like opposable toe, which allows them to grasp and perch.  However, in their dinosaur ancestors, this toe was small and non- opposable, and did not even touch the ground, resembling the dewclaws of dogs and cats. Remarkably, the embryonic development of birds provides a parallel of this evolutionary history: The toe starts out like their dinosaur ancestors, but then its base (the metatarsal) becomes twisted, making it opposable.
Categories: Science

Parents are integral in stopping rise as teen e-cigarette usage triples

Science Daily - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 9:45pm
Though many think e-cigarettes are helping to reduce the number of smokers in the US, research is showing the opposite is true when it comes to teens. Experts recently released data showing that in just one year the number of middle and high school students using e-cigarettes has tripled.
Categories: Science

Deciphering clues to prehistoric climate changes locked in cave deposits

Science Daily - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 9:45pm
It turns out that the steady dripping of water deep underground can reveal a surprising amount of information about the constantly changing cycles of heat and cold, precipitation and drought in the turbulent atmosphere above. The analysis of a stalagmite from a cave in north east India can detect the link between El Nino conditions in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian monsoon, a new study has found.
Categories: Science

'Prisonized' Neighborhoods Make Recidivism More Likely

Slashdot - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 9:10pm
sciencehabit writes: One of the most important questions relating to incarceration and rehabilitation is how to discourage recidivism. After a prison stint, about half of convicts wind up back in the slammer within three years. But sociologist David Kirk noticed a pattern: convicts who moved away from their old neighborhood when released from prison had a much smaller recidivism rate. Kirk found that the concentration of former prisoners in a neighborhood had a dramatic effect on the likelihood of committing another offense (abstract). "So if an ex-con’s average chance of returning to prison after just 1 year was 22%—as it was in 2006—an additional new parolee in the neighborhood boosted that chance to nearly 25%. The numbers climb for each new parolee added. In some of the most affected neighborhoods—where five of every thousand residents were recent parolees—nearly 35% were back behind bars within a year of getting out." The rates stayed consistent even when controlling for chronic poverty and other neighborhood characteristics.

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Categories: Science

What the Oil Spill Off Santa Barbara Is Going to Kill

Wired News - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 8:58pm

The Santa Barbara oil spill is going to kill a lot of animals. A lot.

The post What the Oil Spill Off Santa Barbara Is Going to Kill appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science

A Conversation with Druva Co-Founder Jaspreet Singh (Video)

Slashdot - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 8:30pm
This was originally going to be an interview about the state of enterprise-level backup software in an increasingly edge computing-focused world, but we rapidly drifted into talking about how Druva started in Pune (near Bangalore) and ended up moving to Silicon Valley. We hear plenty about American software companies moving to India, but not a lot about Indian software companies moving here. Druva had good reasons for the move, the chief one being a financing deal with Sequoia Capital. Aside from that, though, Jaspreet says the talent pool -- not just developers but software marketing people and other important staffers -- is more concentrated in Silicon Valley than almost anywhere else in the world. 'It's like Hollywood for geeks,' Jaspreet says. This doesn't mean business is necessarily easy in the USA: Jaspreet ended up laying off his entire staff. Twice. And he made other mistakes as a young, new CEO bringing a company to life in a crowded field. Those mistakes, which Jaspreet shares freely with us, are like a business school 'Start-Up Pitfalls' class. You may never want to do your own startup, but if you're a developer or otherwise involved with the software industry, there's a good chance that you'll have a chance to work for one at some point. And if you have that chance, you'll be glad you watched this video (or read the transcript) before you take the startup plunge.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Science

Watch a Captivating CGI Trip Through Outer Space

Wired News - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 8:16pm

A good opening title sequence doesn’t just preface a narrative. It’s a mini story unto itself.

The post Watch a Captivating CGI Trip Through Outer Space appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science

Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone?

Slashdot - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 7:29pm
An anonymous reader writes: For those of us who don't need or want a smartphone, what would be the best dumb phone around? Do you have a preference over flip or candy bar ones? What about ones that have FM radio? Do any of you still use dumb phones in this smart phone era? Related question: What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life? I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback, but I do miss being able to go 5 or more days on a single charge.

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Categories: Science

Vaccines developed for H5N1, H7N9 avian influenza strains

Science Daily - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 7:23pm
Researchers have developed vaccines for H5N1 and H7N9, two new strains of avian influenza that can be transmitted from poultry to humans. The strains have led to the culling of millions of commercial chickens and turkeys as well as the death of hundreds of people.
Categories: Science

Meet the All-Female Team on a Quest to Shake Up Indy Racing

Wired News - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 6:53pm

This is Grace Autosport, an IndyCar team that will attempt to build its organization around females.

The post Meet the All-Female Team on a Quest to Shake Up Indy Racing appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science

Video Games: Gateway To a Programming Career?

Slashdot - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 6:46pm
Nerval's Lobster writes: Want more people to program? Encourage them to play more video games, at least according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In an online Q&A, Zuckerberg suggested that a lifetime spent playing video games could prep kids and young adults for careers as programmers. "I actually think giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is one of the best things you can do," he told the audience. "I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn't played games as a kid." A handful of games, most notably Minecraft, already have a reputation for encouraging kids to not only think analytically, but also modify the gaming environment — the first steps toward actually wrestling with code. Those of you who have done programming work in your career: did video games influence your path?

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Categories: Science

Tech Time Warp of the Week: Before the iPhone, Anyone Who Was Anyone Rocked a Sidekick

Wired News - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 6:33pm

T-Mobile tried hard to position the Sidekick not as a toy for geeks and business people, but as a cool lifestyle gadget.

The post Tech Time Warp of the Week: Before the iPhone, Anyone Who Was Anyone Rocked a Sidekick appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science

Why Have Volcanoes in the Cascades Been So Quiet Lately?

Wired News - Fri, 22/05/2015 - 6:33pm

Only one volcano in the Cascades has experienced an eruption in the past 100 years.

The post Why Have Volcanoes in the Cascades Been So Quiet Lately? appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Science