First Personal Genome Mapped

Dr. James Watson, usually credited with unraveling of DNA along with Francis Crick, became one of the first people to have his own personal genome mapped - maybe the first.

This entails a thorough assessment which can lead to a better understanding of risk factors for certain diseases and conditions which append their outcomes to genetic antecedents.

Think of it, perhaps, as a structural engineer conducting a risk assessment or failure analysis on a highway overpass or skyscraper - a personal genome map accomplishes this task for the superstucture of your physical body.

With this information in hand, 'bugs' in the program can be identified and corrected, sometimes due to junk code in our DNA left over from an evolutionary branch that was not followed.

With the Brain - APOEe4 positive is one of the genetic conditions to watch for since it greatly impacts Alzheimer's Disease and early onset cases across the human family.
So, exercising your brain and building cognitive reserve is good for everyone - APOEe4 assessment is key for those who are APOEe4 positive. Normally people are diagnosed without any genetic assessment when symptoms are already apparent. APOEe4 begins to impact individuals at a young age before there are any symptoms - knowing about it helps you take charge of your life.

Labels: , , , ,


The NFL Tackles Alzheimer's

Alzheimer's is a huge problem amongst former pro football players due to the association between head injuries such as concussions and symptoms of the disease.

See the release from NFL.com:

Thirty-five ex-NFL players qualify for dementia-Alzheimer's assistance Click here to find out more!

NEW YORK (May 30, 2007) -- Gene Upshaw was taken aback when he first saw the list of retired NFL players applying for financial help under a new program to help those with dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"I played with or against quite a few of these guys," the executive director of the NFL players' union said. "I knew one or two were having problems, but I never knew the extent."

Upshaw, a Hall of Fame guard for the Oakland Raiders from 1968-82, is one of four people being honored May 31 by the Alzheimer's Association of New York for helping start the "88" plan. It provides up to $88,000 from the NFL and the union to help with the care of players afflicted with dementia or related brain problems.

Since the plan took effect Feb. 1, 35 retired players have been approved for aid, with 19 more applications pending. That's up from 21 players two months ago, when the league and union were still trying to go beyond what Upshaw called "word of mouth" in identifying players.

Now the identification is being done through the Bert Bell retirement fund, which handles pensions for more than 9,000 retired players, with the money coming from a trust fund administered by the league and union. So far, according to the NFL, 103 potential candidates for aid have been identified. There are 54 applications, and no one has been turned down. The applications of 19 players who have not yet been certified are to be reviewed.

But it's still hard to know many ex-players need help.

"A lot of people are embarrassed to talk about it or to acknowledge they have a problem," says Dan Rooney, the Pittsburgh Steelers owner and a member of the NFL committee that oversees the plan. "They can have lucid moments when they think things are going all right."

The plan is part of the labor contract agreed upon in March 2006 by the league and union and is administered by Upshaw and Harold Henderson, an NFL senior vice president. The "88" is the number of Hall of Fame tight end John Mackey, one of the first former players who qualified. His wife, Sylvia, was instrumental in persuading Upshaw and former commissioner Paul Tagliabue to include aid for dementia in the new contract.

NFL and union officials say the correlation between NFL players and Alzheimer's is anecdotal rather than scientific, and experts in the field agree.

But the heightened interest in the subject follows the death of Andre Waters, who committed suicide last November at 44. Reports concluded he had brain damage that resulted from multiple concussions during 12 years as an NFL safety. In addition, The Boston Globe and The New York Times reported in February that 34-year-old Ted Johnson, who spent 10 years as a linebacker with the New England Patriots, shows early signs of Alzheimer's.

Activists view the NFL/NFLPA program as a landmark.

"This is the first union and industry program of its kind and it's the first that recognizes the burden the disease puts on families," said Lou-Ellen Barkan, president and chief executive of the New York Alzheimer's Association. On May 31, that group will honor Upshaw and Henderson as well as Sylvia Mackey and Dr. Eleanor Perfetto, wife of Ralph Wenzel, the only other former player who has been publicly identified as part of the program.

Under the program, players can receive up to $50,000 a year for home care and up to $88,000 if they are institutionalized. Barkan said that's part of an ignored part of the burden of Alzheimer's -- those with dementia or Alzheimer's need full-time care, and spouses or children must quit jobs to give full-time care.

"Something like this allows them to hire help," Barkan said. "It allows them to keep jobs without the burden of also being a full-time caregiver."

Those involved with the program say they can't demonstrate clearly that dementia among football players correlates with football.

"I'll leave it for the doctors to decide that," Upshaw says. "A lot of the guys we're talking about are pretty much up in age, so it's hard to know why they have the problem."

Barkan agrees but notes: "Just from what doctors tell us, there is a strong correlation from multiple concussions and the onset of problems."

Flavenols to the Brain Rescue

A natural compound found in blueberries, tea, grapes, and cocoa enhances memory in mice, according to newly published research. This effect increased further when mice also exercised regularly.

"This finding is an important advance because it identifies a single natural chemical with memory-enhancing effects, suggesting that it may be possible to optimize brain function by combining exercise and dietary supplementation," says Mark Mattson, PhD, at the National Institute on Aging.

The compound, epicatechin, is one of a group of chemicals known as flavonols and has been shown previously to improve cardiovascular function in people and increase blood flow in the brain. Flavonols are found in some chocolate. Henriette van Praag, PhD, of the Salk Institute, and colleagues there and at Mars, Inc., showed that the combination of exercise and a diet with epicatechin also promoted structural and functional changes in the dentate gyrus, a part of the brain involved in the formation of learning and memory. The findings, published in the May 30 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that a diet rich in flavonols may help reduce the incidence or severity of neurodegenerative disease or cognitive disorders related to aging.

Van Praag and her team compared mice fed a typical diet with those fed a diet supplemented with epicatechin. Half the mice in each group were allowed to run on a wheel for two hours each day. After a month, the mice were trained to find a platform hidden in a pool of water. Those that both exercised and ate the epicatechin diet remembered the location of the platform longer than the other mice.

read more at Physorg

Labels: , , ,


Coglabs Flash Mash-Up on TheForce.net

Our Star Wars Flash mash-up is on theForce.net.
Look under Update #10 of the media extravaganza after the TIME link...

Labels: , ,


Cognitive Device Makes You Happy, Medication Free

Prescriptions may be a relic of the past in treating mental disorders if electrostimulation lives up to its potential...(neurocognitive cattle prod?)

Wired: A novel medical technique that smuggles an electrical charge into the brain through the vagus nerve is proving at least as effective as medication in controlling severe depression, psychiatrists say.

In vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS, a two-inch diameter, .25 inch thick disk is surgically tucked under the skin near the left collarbone, then wired upward to the vagus nerve in the neck. The battery-operated disk delivers intermittent, rhythmic pulses to the nerve -- whose name means "wandering" in Latin -- that reaches a half dozen areas of the brain critical to treating depression, according to Dr. Darin Dougherty of Massachusetts General Hospital.

"Instead of prescribing milligrams I'm prescribing milliamps," Dougherty says. The implanted disc is programmed and reprogrammed with a wand held over the skin. Data on each patient about the intensity and frequency of the pulse and device settings is stored in individual memory cards slotted into in a handheld computer linked to the wand.

Read All

Labels: , ,


B17s in the Air

In the SF Bay Area, over the last few days you might have seen some classic aircraft in flight, lumbering overhead with a low, piston-powered rumble.

The Memphis Belle

These included the B-17 Flying Fortress, the B-24 Liberator, and the P-51 Mustang.

Women WASP pilots ferried B-17s from the U.S. to the European theatre. Heavy aircraft casualties required continued replenishment. The plane bears the phrase "Pistol Packin' Mama"

Actor Clark Gable, age 43, gunner, 8th Air Force

A wide variety of future celebrities and sports figures were associated with the B-17:

* Martin Caidin (1927–1997) — Author of Cyborg, the story that formed the basis of The Six Million Dollar Man and the saga of the last transatlantic formation flight of B-17s ever made, Everything But the Flak.
* Clark Gable (1901–1960) — Academy Award-winning film actor, five missions as waist gunner with several groups from May to September 1943, including the B-17 Eight Ball of the 359th Bomb Squadron (351st Bomb Group).
* Tom Landry — American football player and coach, flew 30 missions over Europe in 1944-45 as a B-17 pilot with the 493rd Bomb Group, surviving a crash landing in Czechoslovakia. (His older brother Robert died in a B-17 crash)[117]
* Norman Lear — Radio operator, with the 463rd Bombardment Group (Heavy), 15th Air Force, Celone Field, Foggia, Italy; television producer of American sitcoms Sanford and Son, Maude and All in the Family, among others.
* Gene Roddenberry — Creator of Star Trek; flew B-17s for the 394th Bomb Squadron, 5th Bomb Group (H), in the Pacific theater.[118]
* Robert Rosenthal — Assistant to the U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg Trials, where he interrogated Hermann Goering, pilot with the 100th Bomb Group.
* Brigadier General Robert Lee Scott, Jr. (1908–2006) — Best known for his autobiography God is My Co-Pilot, about his exploits in World War II with the Flying Tigers and the United States Army Air Forces in China and Burma.
* Jimmy Stewart — American film actor, instructed in B-17s before flying 20 combat missions in B-24s with the 8th Air Force, England; retired from Air Force Reserve a Brigadier General.[119]
* Bert Stiles (1920-1944) — 91st Bomb Group co-pilot from March to October 1944, short-story author, killed in action flying a P-51 on a second tour.
* Smokey Yunick — Award-winning motorsports car designer and premier NASCAR crew chief flew 50 missions as a B-17 pilot with the 97th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the 15th Air Force, out of Amendola Airfield, Foggia, Italy.[120]

Labels: , , , ,


Early Onset Alzheimer's

More people are being diagnosed with early Alzheimer's, with the disease occurring in the 40's and 50's.

This news story covers just one example. It's important to keep up with preventative activities, get the right exercise, including cardiovascular workouts, and monitor the diet - eating omega-3 rich foods, cruciferous vegetables, berries, and transferring to a Meditteranean-inspired menu for day to day meals and going out. Exercising your brain is a bigpart of it.



Treasure Story Becomes an International Incident

The recent discovery of the Black Swan sea treasure has the makings of an international incident, with the Spanish government asserting that the find may have been located in Spanish territorial waters, with this publication referring to a "possible crime" carried out by the principals of Odyssey Marine. The Spanish Navy, therefore, has put the ship under surveillance.

Attracting attention was the departure of a chartered 757 (ostensibly carrying the treasure) from an airstrip in Gibraltar for the United States.

One imagines divers working furiously to recover the coins, against the clock, trying to prevent the secret of the location from getting out.

It almost has the makings of a James Bond film (assuming it does evolve into an international incident) or certainly, James Cameron.

Labels: , , , ,


Moving Large Loads

So, how did they move the really large loads in Egypt? For that, have a peek at Larry Orcutt's blog.

The Roman practice copied the earlier Ptolemaic dynasty - which moved obelisks from the Nile Valley to adorn the Mediterranean, Hellenistic seaport city Alexandria.

Labels: , , , ,


New Pyramid Theory Gains Converts


Mind Judo with cognitivelabs.com

Yet another trader links to cognitivelabs.com just look under the "mydelicious" tab in the right columns for the links, next to portfolio wizard Ken Fisher.

Traders need to stay sharp, evaluating inflows of data, and making split second decisions. In those situations, a faster brain does help

Enhance your personal competitive advantage through judo for the mind.

Labels: , , , ,

Silver Treasure from the Sea

A piece of Eight: 8 Reales, or the Spanish Dollar. Minting of this coin commenced in 1497 and it remained legal tender in the U.S. until 1857

Odyssey Marine Exploration, America's only publicly-traded treasure-hunting company hit paydirt yesterday with the announcement of the discovery of a haul worth $500 million at an undisclosed location in the Atlantic ocean.

What about Pharaoh's Gold? Where did the Egyptians get the gold to make King Tut's fine mask?

Answer: Nubia and the Eastern Desert.

Walk around the Eastern Desert and if you are lucky you might find the hieroglyphic mark for "gold" - phonetically "n-b-w" which we pronounce nebu - incised on the rocks. The Egyptians were fairly good about leaving graffiti in odd places, like "Ankh-Sheshank, overseer of the kings mines was here" or "here is where water flowed from the living rock in the land of Schnum" (this was the ram-headed god of the 'cataracts' or rapids, think of the Colorado River).

If you want to dig for the lost gold of the Pharaohs, you can be an armchair archaeologist and avoid the 125 F heat and the landrover, camel, or donkey trek. All you have to do is invest in Centamin, a publicly traded company that has won a concession from the Egyptian government to develop the gold resources of the Eastern Desert, not too different in appearance from the Sinai or the greater Mojave around Death Valley.

Labels: , , , , ,



Here is some technology news:

First, an unprintable Domain name goes for $9.5 million in cash, beating business.com
's $7 million of a few years back. There was a higher sale on another domain (also unprintable) but that was a combination of cash and stock.

Second, AOL bought an advertising company, Adtech, which it plans to use as a supplement to Advertising.com. (Note: Cognitive Labs is testing advertising.com now, see the blockbuster offers)

Third, have a nice day.


The End

(part 7)

Baer, Harrison, and Rusch kept copious dated notes of all their work on the TV games project at Sanders. This habit was typical at the defense contractor, which expected documentation with military precision. In the notes you see here from February 1967, Baer outlines some of his first TV game designs, then with the help of Harrison, fleshes them out in May with descriptions of overlays and possible controllers. Also present are excerpts from Bill Rusch's design journal, filled with incredibly advanced game concepts for the time, including the ultimate genesis of Atari's Pong (in the form of "Ping-Pong") in a sketch dated October 18th, 1967. Hand-drawn schematics of Rusch's Ping-Pong circuitry round out the set.

Raster and Vector

(part 6)

Raster vs. Vector Box

Even without delving into the technical back end of things, it's obvious that the "video" definition argument, when taken alone, rings a little hollow and oversimplifies the issue into one of mere semantics. Yes, there's an electronic difference between raster and vector displays, but regardless of the exact type used, the end result remains the same. After all, Atari introduced vector-display arcade games like Asteroids and Tempest in the 1970s and '80s that are commonly considered videogames, and no one argues with that. So what's the real key to the puzzle?

It all comes down to lineage. Baer's technology begat the videogames that the vast majority of videogame enthusiasts play now: Games using home video displays as a medium. The videogames you see and play today are direct linear descendants of his invention. After all, how often does one see companies selling games designed for play on the family oscilloscope?

Steve Wozniak, cofounder of Apple Computer, is a well-known cheerleader of Baer's work. "I worked as hard as I could to get him every award he deserves," said Wozniak in a recent interview. Awards that include the National Medal of Technology, presented to Baer in 2005 by U.S. president George W. Bush for his pioneering work with videogames. When asked why he thinks Baer should be considered the inventor of videogames, Woz was quick with praise. "He made the first ones, long before even Atari. And he did it so early, one after another, after another."

But don't earlier games like Spacewar diminish Baer's achievement? "No, no," insisted Wozniak. "If you have a million dollars to spend on some research group and equipment in a university, you could have the equipment there to make a game so far ahead of where it could really be sold to the world. The talent is really making something at a price people could afford. That's what Ralph did. Anyone with infinite amounts of money can do projects that would be impossible to do at affordable cost today."

Wozniak brings up a great point. Like Apple's innovations with the personal computer -- a machine designed to be affordable, accessible, and usable by anyone -- Baer essentially created the "personal videogame." All electronic CRT games previous to Baer's were technological curiosities, noncommercial dead ends with immense requirements for operation that, as a result, remained in the hands of the elite and the few instead of spreading to the masses. It's true that the elaborate and ambitious Spacewar, which required a $120,000 DEC PDP-1 computer to function, was the inspiration for a milestone commercial product by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in the form of Computer Space (1971), the world's first coin-operated videogame. But alas, it was the more plebeian Pong, a tweaked and improved clone of Bill Rusch's down-to-earth Ping-Pong game, which launched the videogame industry into the mainstream. Even Atari's wildly successful home Pong unit (1975), a product that started the headlong commercial rush into the home console market, could not help but borrow pages (and patents) from the Sanders-invented Magnavox Odyssey that preceded it. As Baer himself told PONG-story.com, "It is physically and logically impossible to be the father of anything unless there is a child." By any standard, Baer's creation definitely bore fruit -- fruit that we see all around us today. So whether they go by "TV games" or the infinitely more bland euphemism "interactive entertainment," Ralph Baer is widely regarded as the father of videogames, regardless of what they are called, making Bill Harrison their mother, and Bill Rusch the estranged uncle. Welcome back to the family, Rusch. And happy

Onward and Upward

(part 5)

Onward and Upward

Baer, Harrison, and Rusch worked on TV games for the remainder of the decade, culminating in the license of their technology to Magnavox, a major TV manufacturer at the time. Magnavox used the license to develop the world's first home videogame system, the Odyssey, which was almost an exact copy of a 1968-69 Sanders prototype known as the "Brown Box." Launched in 1972, the overpriced and mismanaged Odyssey package was a modest commercial success, but being based on late-1960s technology, it was effectively outdated by the time it was released. While introducing the concept of the home videogame console and ultimately starting the videogame revolution, the Odyssey failed to excite the popular imagination. That task would be left to a young entrepreneur named Nolan Bushnell and his company, Atari, whose second game, Pong, proved to be the essential catalyst needed to kick-start the videogame industry. It's no coincidence that Pong looks a little familiar to the Ping-Pong game created by Baer's team at Sanders: Bushnell based his game directly on a demonstration of the Odyssey that he witnessed on May 24, 1972 at a dealer and press exposition of the new console in California.

With the help of various engineers and technicians, Baer continued to create innovative new video-related technologies throughout the 1970s and beyond, each worthy of its own chapter in history. By the late '70s, Baer's once-maligned videogame technology at Sanders had become the company's shining star. Licensing agreements from the Baer, Harrison, and Rusch videogame patents were a huge cash cow for the company, then struggling from tough times in the defense industry. "We'd be in the quarterly meeting, along with other division managers, looking at the performance of various divisions," Baer told Game Developer magazine, "and our licensing income was always bigger than that of the biggest division of the company." At that point, Baer was nigh untouchable by upper management. He escaped the stressful task of heading a huge division and settled into a flexible R&D position that offered him ample creative freedom. Meanwhile, he began doing his own independent toy and game design on the side -- intellectually satisfying work at which he has found continued success over the last three decades.


In the 1960s, Ralph Baer was adamant in requiring his engineers to keep copious, detailed notes documenting all their work on the TV games project. His meticulous nature paid off: We now have verifiable journal entries, diagrams, and electronic schematics that not only confirm Baer's story, but allow a rare window into the minds of the three men at the time they were creating the world's first television games. Historians can rest easy knowing that some of the nation's most prestigious professional archivists recently recognized the historical importance of the Sanders work and took charge of preserving the team's legacy for future generations. With the invaluable assistance of Ralph Baer, who rescued all the documents and prototypes he could find, the original TV game-related hardware, journals, and paperwork that remain are now preserved in the Lemelson Center at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. Baer has also built fully functioning replicas of all the original TV games units for placement in museums all around the world.

Despite having racked up enough landmark achievements for several lifetimes, Baer shows no signs of quitting. Now 85 years old, he continues to develop electronic toys and games from his workshop at home. The modern world of videogames, at its light-speed pace, has long since passed him by, but he'll always remain incredibly proud of the contributions he made at the very beginning.

Bill Harrison left Sanders Associates in 1978 for a new life in sunny Florida. There, he worked 19 years as VP of engineering for International Laser Systems. Now 73 and retired, he spends time fixing up old cars and sailing when he gets the chance. He says the thing he'll always remember most about the TV games project was the great people he worked with. "It was a fun job to work on, and especially working with Ralph," Harrison reflected in a recent interview. "Boy, those were good years." He and Baer are close friends to this day.

As the square peg of the trio, we tend to hear about Bill Rusch the least from Baer's accounts of TV game history. Rusch's oldest son, Jim Rusch, says that his father retired from Sanders (then known as Lockheed-Sanders) around 1990. The elder Rusch, a multitalented musician, athlete, artist, and engineer, created many innovative works in his lifetime, but he considered Ping-Pong one of his greatest achievements. A few years after retiring, Bill Rusch went to see his doctor, complaining of acute back pain. The doctor discovered cancer that had already spread throughout his body. He died six weeks later, in July of 1993, at the age of 63.

The First Videogames Ever?

Historians have documented a number of potential candidates for the title of "first videogame," including three that predate 1967. But the games created that year by Ralph Baer and his team had one major distinction from all the rest, a distinction whose importance was upheld by dozens of legal trials through the decades, and one considered paramount by historians: They were designed to be played on an ordinary home TV set by ordinary people.

"That was the seminal idea," Baer told Game Developer magazine. And although it seems obvious to us now, before Ralph Baer came along, no one had developed electronic hardware for the purpose of playing games using an unmodified consumer television set. Ralph Baer did not coin the precise term "videogame"; it came along later in reference to electronic video arcade games of the early 1970s. But one could argue that Baer's innovative electronic TV games were the first videogames ever created.

One way of looking at the issue of the first videogame is that the other possible "firsts" most commonly cited -- William Higinbotham's Tennis for Two (1958), Steve Russell's Spacewar (1962), and even Thomas T. Goldsmith Jr.'s little-known 1948 missile-game patent -- did not use video displays; they used vector displays and oscilloscopes. So what's the difference? Most dictionaries provide a vague and often recursive definition of "video" that nonetheless always mentions television, and numerous historical news accounts from the 1950s to the 1980s treat "television" and "video" as nearly synonymous. The technology of television involves creating the illusion of motion through the rapid succession of individual still images. Vector displays were neither designed nor used (typically) to show a sequence of still images in motion, nor were they ever used in television sets, and by this strict definition, they are not video displays. The three games mentioned above, all unknown to Baer and his team at the time of his invention, utilized an electronic vector display known as an oscilloscope for their graphical output (Spacewar's display, while not precisely an oscilloscope, was technologically equivalent). While the display tubes in oscilloscopes are indeed cathode-ray tubes (CRTs) that are similar in many ways to television picture tubes, the means by which images are actually drawn on the two are entirely different.

The First Game Developers

part 4

The First Game Developers

As their first order of business in the new lab, Baer and Harrison began work on a TV quiz game using a light pen as an input device. The player wielding the pen pointed it at one of several coded white spots on the screen, each corresponding to a different answer in a multiple-choice quiz. If the player pointed the right answer, a green light on the pen device turned on. A wrong answer registered as a red light. Baer and Harrison designed their light pen to work in conjunction with a specially prepared videotape that would effectively become "interactive" when combined with this technique. Promising as it was, work on the project soon screeched to an abrupt halt as Sanders management recalled Harrison to complete a pressing military project. TV games would have to wait. Meanwhile, life went on as usual at Sanders.

During the hiatus, Baer first met with Bill Rusch, a brilliant and eccentric R&D engineer at Sanders. Rusch and Baer brainstormed on dozens of game ideas, all of which they documented in an amazing illustrated memo dated May 10, 1967. The landmark memo includes descriptions of Pole Position-style and overhead racing games, Combat -style chase games, maze games, roulette games, baseball games (among other sports), a Sabotage-style shooting game, golf putting, horse racing, and even more. Despite the long list, their best idea was yet to come.

On May 2, 1967, Bill Harrison returned to the fold, and work on the TV games project resumed. Baer and Rusch parted ways while Rusch continued work on another project. Over the next few weeks, Harrison built all the hardware necessary to split a TV screen horizontally into a black half on top, and blue half on bottom using a single "spot generator" circuit whose spot was stretched to fill as much of the screen as necessary. This became the basis of the first "pumping game" created by the pair. Baer whipped up an opaque overlay with a bucket-shaped cutout in the center and taped it over the screen of their modest TV. Known as the Bucket Filling Game, one player pushed a button rapidly, attempting to "pump" the blue water all the way up to the top of the bucket, while another player did the same, but controlling the top black half and attempting to pump all the water out. "There was some heavy breathing going on while we whacked away at those dumb buttons," wrote Baer in Videogames: The Beginning, a book that details the events. "It was primitive, but it was a beginning, and it was fun, at least for a short time." After the game was over, Bill Harrison made an entry in his notebook dated May 15, 1967:


(Part 3, go back for part 2)

Right from the start, Baer dreamed of creating a consumer product for the mass market: "The idea was to make an alternative, interactive use of tens of millions of home TV sets then in homes worldwide," Baer told classic-gaming website PONG-story.com. He envisioned his creation as an alternative to the general lack of selection available on the few broadcast channels of the day, imagining his games coming in on "Channel LP," for "Let's Play." Later, he favored the more obvious and simpler term "TV games" to describe his novel and groundbreaking work.

Jewish Chutzpah

By early 1967, Ralph Baer had drafted Bill Harrison, a bright and capable Sanders technician, into the new project as his chief hardware guru. Harrison had loyalty and respect for Baer's knowledge and experience, and the two quickly found that they worked well together. With the idea of TV games burning in his imagination, Baer wasted no time in securing initial funding and support from certain visionaries in Sanders' upper management, allowing him to put his vision into practice. Herbert Campman, corporate director of R&D at Sanders, was one of those visionaries. He served as Baer's main advocate in the upper echelon of impeccably suited, stern-faced executives at Sanders when it came to the utterly frivolous topic of videogames. More importantly, Campman became the man immediately behind the purse strings of Baer's pet project -- and thus, the man to please.

The two engineers moved into a 10-by-12-foot lab on the fifth floor of Sanders' Canal Street building in Nashua, NH, on Feb 12, 1967. It was modest accommodations for an ambitious project. A long workbench stretched across a back wall, wired up for both electronic test equipment and their prized 19-inch RCA color TV set. A desk, a couple of file cabinets, and two chairs filled the rest of the floor space. "It was a tight fit," Baer said.

Baer kept the tiny lab, a former company library in Sanders' early days, locked at all times. Only two men had keys: Baer and Harrison. The room would remain the base of operations for their controversial video experiments for years to come -- experiments that, had they been known about widely at the time, might have garnered intense ridicule from other employees of the prominent defense contractor. Pursuing them was an utterly audacious move.

"To tell the truth, it was a piece of Jewish chutzpah," Baer admitted in a March 2007 interview with Game Developer magazine. To be sure, Baer's venture was a gutsy proposition in the midst of a company accustomed to selling war. At the time, Baer ran a 500-person engineering division with a multimillion-dollar budget. He figured that putting a few technicians, like Harrison, on his pet project wouldn't affect his departmental overhead -- it would be a drop in the bucket for a huge company like Sanders. However, that simple drop would soon make a huge splash, then transform into an unstoppable, raging tsunami. For now, though, they were just beginning.

Epiphany, Take Two

(this is part two, go back to the previous post for part 1)

Ralph Baer was already a seasoned engineer at Sanders Associates when he visited New York City on a business trip in 1966. Near the end of his stay, the then-44-year-old Jewish immigrant and World War II veteran -- whose family fled Nazi Germany shortly before Kristallnacht in 1938 -- found himself waiting at a bus terminal for an associate to arrive. As he rested on a concrete step, Baer basked in the warm late-August sun and set his mind adrift in a sea of thought. It was there that Baer had his "eureka" moment. The concept of playing games on an ordinary TV set bubbled up from the depths of his subconscious. Amazingly, Baer says that the idea for TV games had occurred to him briefly before, as early as 1951, while designing a television set for Loral Electronics. But in 1966 -- at a different company and in a more influential position -- it seemed that it might be the perfect time to develop the idea further. Baer scribbled down notes as fast as they came to him. Those notes became the foundation of his first formal "TV games" patent disclosure document, dated September 1, 1966. He wrote it out in exquisite detail when he returned to New Hampshire, making sure to fix his thoughts during that decisive moment in history firmly on paper.

Cold, Snowy New Hampshire

"The 19-inch screen flashed in waves of blue and black as two normally reserved professionals threw themselves into a competition destined for the history books. Mashing furiously at hand-wired buttons, each battled to be the first winner of a unique contest never before played by man: the contest of the videogame, seen for the first time on home televisions.

In 1967, a bold engineer with a vision led a small team to create the world's first electronic games to use an ordinary television set as a medium. Wary of naysayers from within, the video mavericks sequestered themselves behind closed doors, and for good reason: They worked under the payroll of Sanders Associates, a giant Cold War defense contractor. As hippies on the streets of San Francisco stuck flowers in the barrels of guns, three men in snowy New Hampshire crafted the future of electronic entertainment deep in the heart of a commercial war machine. In May of 1967, the world's first videogames -- as we know them today -- made their quiet, humble entrance into the world.


Video Games Now Middle-Aged

Video games have just turned the big 4-0.

That is because 40 years ago was the date when some enterprising developers connected a Magnavox TV set to their experimental console and played a precursor of the future classic "pong".

One of the people who saw the demo was Nolan Bushnell. He improved on the concept and created the memorable name "Pong." It was later commercialized, with great fanfare by the start-up Atari and its head, who coincidentally also happened to be Nolan Bushnell.

Later, he would bring forth another wonder - Chuck E. Cheese, inevitably patronized at some point by those with kids, on the way to feverishly creating more than 20 companies, according to Wikipedia. (A worthy goal)

Read all the details at one-up.com.

Labels: , , , ,


If you want to see who is uploading to Flickr in real time (projected against the Google Earth xml API) then here is an interesting site for you.

It reminds you of what a small space the earth really is - one community.

Labels: ,


Fighting Disease from a Game Console at Stanford

A team at Stanford is harnessing the computational power of thousands of PC's and Sony PS3 computers to perform calculations related to protein folding, which may shed light on the origin of diseases including cancer and Alzheimer's. While the project has been ongoing since 2000, the addition of PS3's has kickstarted the adoption rate.

When users are online, the extra processing power can be used for the good of humanity. It is reminiscent of the Seti@home project.

Read the article by Ben Silverman of Yahoo! games.

Labels: , ,


Brain Evolution: Gene Mutation Explains Difference Between Humans and Chimpanzees

Humans and Chimps share 98.5% of their genes. However, no one would say that chimps approach humans in intelligence or cognitive ability.

What accounts for the difference?

About 5 million years ago or less, a genetic change was introduced into a protein called the neuropsin, which governs memory and learning and is found only in neurons in the central nervous system. While both humans and chimps have neuropsin - humans alone have a second form of the protein called Type II neuropsin. It is disintinguished from the former in that it is 45 amino acids longer.

In the recent study, conducted by Dr. Bing Su at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and just published in the journal Human Mutation, scientists also showed that inducing the Type II mutation in chimpanzee neurons was sufficient to create the longer splice variant found in humans, demonstrating that a relatively minor mutation could account for the difference in protein length - and therefore the mental performance gap, between the species.

It would be interesting to determine if the genesis of the Type II variant led to the development of consciousness or enhanced self-awareness by stimulating changes in the brain.

Labels: ,


New High Water mark - Friday, May 11th

Today, on May 11 - Cognitive Labs' reached 20,000 page views by 9:00 AM Pacific, and I'm writing this at 9:07. This is our high watermark of traffic so far.

Keep in mind last May we had 70,086 page views for the whole month.

Labels: ,


A Real Nice Algorithm

I just developed a real nice algorithm. It's incredibly simple. There's a series, arguments, a divisor (constant), and it can be derived a couple of different ways. Here's a hint: time is one of the elements. I'm trying to symbolically portray how the brain processes information - not for an academic paper, rather for a system function.

In the supply chain days, post-UPS: we once had a Operations Research professor at University of Michigan helping us out - Dr. Katta Murty. He would work on algorithms, say "Ah, I've developed a real nice algorithm!" then we would run down and get Indian food at an all-you can eat vegan Indian place. That was at the company's 1st office location. I also had another O.R. expert on my dissertation committee - Dr. Nabil Rageh, who was Egyptian - he was a manufacturing expert.

Labels: ,

The Mechanics of Aging

Jacob Israel Avedon, photo by Richard Avedon

Why does aging occur? This question was recently asked in a descriptive piece in the New Yorker.

Aging really can be defined as molecular change (see article) mitigated by time. Others, for example, longevity researcher Aubrey DeGrey, posit a free-radical theory of human decline.

In something of a counterpoint, according to Dr. Ashford, a Stanford/VA scientist, "The problem is a species adaptation to an ecological niche with evolution occurring at all system levels of the organism including the social interactions between members of the species during the adaptation."

"Evolution and adaptation is ever continuing and may lead to a longer life for the organisms of the species, but it takes a long time. I think free-radicals are just part of life, carefully adapted into the living process, and you can’t just treat this molecular mechanism or any other one and expect to live forever. Look what happened to Roy Walford, the starvation for aging man, who ended up dying of leukemia at a younger age than his normal life-expectancy."

Labels: , ,


Your Brain is Better Off: TV Numbers plummet

Television viewership has dropped significantly in the U.S. between this year and spring 2006 - an aggregate loss to the networks of 2.5 million viewers.

TV executives, such as NBC's head of research, played down the stats, asserting that the decline is illusory - and that tools to measure delayed or suspended viewing or downloads from websites such as iTunes simply have not evolved enough to enable tracking of additional media consumption.

At stake is more than $8.8 Billion in advertising revenue, sold to advertisers at a premium on the basis of engaged, concurrent viewers. If viewers are not, in fact, behaving as predicted, then the value drops.

TV doesn't have the brain boosting features of Cognitive Labs or brain.com, though you could build a meta-tuner for all televised content at brain.com, there are a few sites running live streams of virtually all televised content worldwide using the Flash video codec, but so far these have not caught on in the manner of all-everything clip-fests like youtube.

Labels: , ,

Trader Brain Exercise

Here's an interesting mention...a foreign exchange trader (who blogs as tradergav) exercises his brain with cognitive labs. He watched a TV show about the brain and then found us. You can even twitter him

Labels: , ,


Herod (The Great's) Tomb Found

In Greek - Herodon Basileus(king)

Archaeologists have found the tomb of King Herod. Herod was referred to in the biblical Book of Matthew - as the force behind the "massacre of the innocents." Several other 'Herods' are mentioned in the Bible, including Herod Antipas, Herod Agrippa, and Herod Archelaus.

Herod was a client-king of the Romans, serving at the pleasure of the Roman Senate, where he was considered a 'strongman' who in Roman opinion could control the schismatic Jews as well as the other nationalities living in Palestine.

More Hellenistic than Jewish, Herod was an Idumaen and resented for having more in common with the Hellenized elite than faithful Jews. He developed a close relationship as a drinking partner of Marcus Antonius (Antony), but had the presence of mind to switch sides when Antony's downfall became apparent, and became a close ally of Octavian (Augustus). His main contribution was the elaboration of the Second Temple, the wall of which is still evident in Jerusalem.

Main source for his reign: Flavius Josephus


Expert Systems in HealthCare

Healthcare information systems need a transfusion. An array of complex, aging systems, organizational ennui, and lack of incentive in staid, health CIO positions make innovation scarce and punishable by banishment for would-be revolutionaries.

Year after year, and now decade after decade - the same problems are evident and have not been solved except around the edges. The Minotaur of systems complexity wanders through the halls of a Health Care palace of Knossos, and nothing happens. No Theseus emerges to slay the beast and save Health -IT from its intellectual and imaginative convalescence.

The state of HealthCare IT is so bad in for profit and non-profit health that a small team empowered by the Civil servants at the U.S. Veterans Administration did the impossible - created an electronic patient record system that is unparalleled in its utility and simplicity, and shamed a multi-billion dollar industry with an expenditure of just a few million dollars.

An expert system is a theoretical construct that makes decisions, or assists others in making timely decisions, using information. This is where serious games come into play in the identification of people who might want to follow-up or take testing and analysis to a second level.

Once you are in the system (registered user), it is a simple matter to offer an array of more extensive queries in the manner of an Expert system to flag performance changes and narrow down possible causes - so individuals, their families, educators, and caregivers can take action. This Cognitive Management System, (CMS) brings the Expert system, via the Internet, into an active role in understanding and evaluating cognitive performance. Still, there is no reason that people cannot have fun at the same time!



First phone in space?

Smiling Richard Branson, Virgin Chairman, holds up a Virgin phone.
Phones have been getting smaller and smaller in recent years,
as faithfully reported in the film 'zoolander'

Virgin Mobile has filed for a $100 Million Initial Public Offering (IPO) as the U.S. market for such offerings appears to be recovering from a hiatus of several years.

Virgin Mobile is marketed in outlets such as Target Stores, for example.

Virgin is an example of an MVNO, or mobile virtual network operator. The idea behind MVNOs is that they offer just the right helping of services and features regular people really need. While initially "targeted" at a youthful, style-oriented, audience - that hipster marketers always seem to want to enthrall, these kinds of services bring excellent value for everyone.

Labels: ,

Scientists: Eye Exercises Can Boost Memory 10%

Moving your eyes from side to side for 30 seconds every morning can boost memory by up to 10 per cent, a study suggests, reports Lewis Smith in the London Times. The findings appear to support the use of Visuospatial processing exercises - "games" that focus on eye movement in boosting memory and recall and provide independent verification of findings observed using these exercises.

Students who took part in the eye exercise tests found that their memory recall was boosted by a spot of eye jiggling. The exercises work, it is thought, because the eye movements cause the two hemispheres of the brain to interact more efficiently with each other.

Research led by Andrew Parker of Manchester Metropolitan University, identified the potential exam revision technique while studying false recall. "This could be important in situations where we feel uncertain, unclear or maybe even just confused about what we may have done or said," he said. "It may help someone recall an important piece of information for an exam or for a shopping list."

He presented 102 university students with recordings of a male voice reading 20 lists of 15 words. The subjects were then handed a list of words and asked to pick out those that they had just heard. On average, the students who had moved their eyes from side to side performed 10 per cent better than the rest. Up and down eye movement was of no use at all to recall.

Contained within the lists were "lure" words that were not in the spoken list but were similar to some of those that were. Students who had moved eyes sideways were 15 per cent better at ignoring the misleading words.

Dr Parker said: "Our work shows that true memory can be improved and false memory reduced. One reason for this is that bilateral eye movements may improve our ability to monitor the source of our memories. He said that people are often confused over whether a memory is real or imagined, such as whether a bill was paid or a door locked.

"The problem is to determine the source of one’s memory — real or imagined. Bilateral eye movements may help us to determine accurately the source of our memory," he said.

He came up with the idea of testing students and getting them to move their eyes after previous research indicated that some memories are dependent on the level of activity between the brain’s two hemispheres.

The researchers, who published their findings in the journal Brain and Cognition, anticipated a reduction in false memory but were taken aback to find that the eye movements assisted recall of true memories.

"The effects are so counter-intuitive," Dr Parker said. "That such a straightforward experimental manipulation can bring about enhanced memory for studied information and lower the number of memory errors is quite exciting."

More work has to be done to establish in what contexts the technique will be effective and whether it really will help in an exam. But he added: "If one does forget something then it will do no harm to try moving one’s eyes from side to side — to see if it does make a difference."

Labels: , , ,


Dark Chocolate Sales Soar 49%

Is it too good to be true? Apparently not.

Sales of dark chocolate are up almost 50% over last year in view of the numerous reported health benefits:

(1) Moderate consumption can improve cardiovascular performance

(2) Improvements were detected in cognitive performance in several independent studies, including one funded by Mars, Inc.

(3) For performance athletes, chocolate milk comes close to the ideal food, replacing spent electrolytes and powering muscular performance with a synthesis of protein and sugars

Chocolate and Weight: Keep in mind that the known rules about calories apply - don't exceed what is normal for your age and activity level to stay svelte.

Some relevant reporting:

Health benefits of Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Milk, Cognitive Enhancement by Chocolate

Labels: ,

Microsoft and Yahoo

Microsoft and Yahoo to merge? Balmer, Semel & Co.

That's what the buzz is saying.

Labels: ,


Pentagon wants to Merge Brain with Binoculars

Cognitive Threat Assessment

Remember Luke Skywalker's 'binoculars' that he used to pan the horizon looking for R2-D2 in Star Wars IV right before he says "Boy, am I gonna get it?"

The Pentagon is starting an effort which will merge soldier's brains with visual devices - integrated at the frontal cortex, called "Luke's Binoculars."

Or we could add, reminiscent of the "Six Million Dollar" man and his enhanced vision, or Arnold Schwarzenegger's visual acuity as the Terminator in T 1,2,3.

The agency claims no scientific breakthrough is needed on the project -- formally called the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System. Instead, Darpa hopes to integrate technologies that have been simmering in laboratories for years, ranging from flat-field, wide-angle optics, to the use of advanced electroencephalograms, or EEGs, to rapidly recognize brainwave signatures.

In March, Darpa held a meeting in Arlington, Virginia, for scientists and defense contractors who might participate in the project. According to the presentations from the meeting, the agency wants the binoculars to have a range of 1,000 to 10,000 meters, compared to the current generation, which can see out only 300 to 1,000 meters. Darpa also wants the binoculars to provide a 120-degree field of view and be able to spot moving vehicles as far as 10 kilometers away.

The most far-reaching component of the binocs has nothing to do with the optics: it's Darpa's aspirations to integrate EEG electrodes that monitor the wearer's neural signals, cueing soldiers to recognize targets faster than the unaided brain could on its own. The idea is that EEG can spot "neural signatures" for target detection before the conscious mind becomes aware of a potential threat or target.

Darpa's ambitions are grounded in solid research, says Dennis McBride, president of the Potomac Institute and an expert in the field. "This is all about target recognition and pattern recognition," says McBride, who previously worked for the Navy as an experimental psychologist and has consulted for Darpa. "It turns out that humans in particular have evolved over these many millions of years with a prominent prefrontal cortex."

Read the Whole Article
- Wired

Labels: ,

Heart Attack Rate Cut in Half

A new study conducted
in 14 different countries over six years has found a 50% decline in the rate of heart attacks in patients who are hospitalized, compared to the rate of heart attacks experienced in in the year 1995. The advance is attributed to newer procedures such as angioplasty, more effective blood-thinning medications, and where possible, earlier intervention.

As efforts to treat cardiovascualar risk become more effective, along with cancer treatments, Alzheimer's moves into a more threatening position. Not only is the incidence of Alzheimer's increasing, as populations age, it impacts a greater percentage of people - as the risk factors for Alzheimer's include age, genetics, and lifestyle.

Labels: ,


April 2007 Box Score

We ended up in April with 116,596 unique visitors, over 1 million page views. But, here is the more interesting data because inquiring minds want to know:

Serious Test Taker Analysis

New registered users:

(1) Simple reaction time test – variety 1 (MyDNA) 4,250 new
(2) Simple reaction time test – variety 2 (Alz. Association) 5,215 new
(3) Reversal Cue test - memory test 1,252 new
(4) Visuospatial Capacity Test 319 new
(5) Focus and Reaction Time Trainer 7 new
(6) MemoryPIX (surprise) 1,062 new
(7) BrainAge Test (weighted score, needs clarity 2,162 new
(8) Brainpal Reaction Test (yellow-red dot test) 843 new
(9) Main site registration (give us your email-homepage 490 new
(10) Genespeed 690 new
subtotal 16,290

Einstein brain gym

The Einstein brain gym is one of the most popular features on the site and offers 9 tests and 72 different test variations, depending on intensity and duration of the tests, and more than 100 pages of content. The Einstein brain gym is the top-fold feature on Game Central, cognitivelabs.com game portal and has received 76,608 page views in April, approx 7% of total.

Game Central

registered 8,169 people in April. rolling total: 24,459

Of this amount, we estimate at least 40%, or 3,267 have tried the brain gym. This brings us to a total of 19,558 new visitors undertaking serious activities and we estimate an additional 2,000-3,000 through searches, via email, and additional serious tests that also do not require registration.

Friends and related interests: 26,311 nominations were received - this is where someone wants to spread the news with other contacts. These are segmented by interest.

That's all for now.


How Google Earth images are made

Did you ever wonder how Google makes Google Earth? What's the process, how did they get started? How does it work? Read, and you'll know...


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?