Virtual Reality is Back

Stanford researchers are trying to get you to put those virtual reality gloves back on.

Back in the day, one of my first accounts was a Palo Alto start-up company that made virtual reality helmets and shipped them to labs all over the world, or sometimes movie studios as a kind of curio. VR was the big thing just before the Internet achieved public consciousness, which was around 1994 for the average researcher and in the mid-90's for the average user, who usually started out as an AOL subscriber. Applications for VR in the first iteration were never very useful and were expensive, though you could definitely state that the idea of integrating physical motion with computing was the conceptual precursor of the Wii.

VR even was used as a major plot device in a film, Disclosure. Donald Sutherland was the CEO of a high-tech company and the antagonist. The sub-villain was Demi Moore, and the protagonist was Michael Douglas, who got to wear the virtual reality outfit in an attempt to decode what was going on.

At the end of the day, after a variety of plot turns, Douglas was confirmed in his job as VP of Engineering.

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Cognitive Testing and Multiple Sclerosis

Cognitive Testing may offer a new way to intervene in the detection of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

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The Missing Arch

Almost a year ago, a well known landmark in a National Park collapsed - not the most well-known, but still one that most hikers see. Here is a little before, and a little after, cognitively.

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Researchers Assert Role for Jellyfish in Oceanic Mixing

It's been a great year for the jellyfish, first, it was speculated that one species might be immortal in some instances. (the exercise is below)

Now, Caltech researchers in a new study make a fascinating claim - that the oceans are 'mixed' by the actions of billions of jellyfish. The data thus points out a symbiosis between biological organism and its environment - in this case, liquid water, which is the most prevalent substance on the earth's surface, creating a powerful feedback loop. The net impact of jellyfish activity matches that of tidal forces and wind.

Apparently, the results reveal a mixing mechanism first hypothesized by Charles Darwin's grandson, Charles Galton Darwin, a theoretical physicist also interested in long-range prediction using vast datasets. Overall, it is estimated that trillions of watts of energy are contributed by jellyfish and microscopic organisms towards oceanic mixing.

Physicist Charles Galton Darwin 1887-1962

"We've been studying swimming animals for quite some time," said John Dabiri, a Caltech assistant professor of aeronautics and bioengineering. "The perspective we usually take is that of how the ocean — by its currents, temperature, and chemistry — is affecting the animals. But there have been increasing suggestions that the inverse is also important — how the animals themselves, via swimming, might impact the ocean environment."

Video of this topic.

The Turritopsis test...

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Rare Coins to be Displayed in British Museum

One link leads to another, then another, and so we found this tidbit, of interest to Latin buffs. It turns out charitable organizations in the UK purchased 2 gold coins of the usurper Carausius. The design is quite impressive - keep in mind that these objects were entirely handmade. First, a chisel-like iron die was prepared with a carved out inset of the coin's obverse, or head on one end. Then, on an anvil another die was inset, with a carved out version of the reverse. By changing dies, different reverses could be struck, each one communicating something that the political administration wanted known.

Gold coins of this Gallic strongman are quite rare - only 23 are known, so the discovery of a lot of 2 is exceptional. The coins were found in a field in Nottinghamshire disturbed by construction. What makes them notable is the fairly rare design of the helmet the ruler wears - a stylized version of the Greek hoplite headgear, tipped up on the forehead. More unusual is the use of the vocative case in the inscription for this individual's name - CARAVSI instead of CARAVSIVS. (Note: the Roman alphabet originally displayed "V" and "U" identically on inscriptions and coins). Another known instance of the vocative case on portraiture is the emperor Gallienus, as in GALLIENE, which is almost a unique example. (Below)

History of this coin

The vocative case is used to signify declarations in Latin, something like "Omigod!" or "Gosh!" so we can guess that the vocative use here is an acclamation, probably representing the fact that Carausius' troops proclaimed him emperor (of Britain and Gaul) - after which it was customary to issue a bonus to the troops. VIRTVS CARAVSI is approximated as "O, Brave Carausius" in English. This fiscal practice became a dangerous policy for political longevity because each instance of 'regime change' would result in another payment.

Who was Carausius? Read more.

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Cleansing Your Body and Brain, an Eco-Friendly Voyage

Keeping a fit brain is easier with some recommended food choices. How about the growing trend towards holistic detoxification? Gwyneth Paltrow, Gerard Butler, the tough-guy from 300, and even some geeks swear by keeping your innards as pristine as your mental pathways. Usually this is accomplished by a scientifically engineered juice concoction.

Of course, you could go all the way out to the hipster fringe and try the latest eco-trend, ayahuasca tea - made from the bark of a South American vine. It is claimed to cause total liquid detox at both ends of the physical spectrum as an absolute cleansing and also is accompanied by visions (no, we haven't tried it) and has been consumed by artists, rock-stars, and celebs as part of their self-awareness and recovery regimen, including an Amazon rain forest field-trip, as a rite of passage.

A youtube search for ayahuasca results in this vid...from the film Blueberry

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Motor Vehicles and Your Brain

Aging or other causes of cognitive decline can threaten reaction time and attentiveness - impacting the ability to drive successfully, or fly a plane for that matter. Handling the differing constituencies in this scenario presents a challenge for policymakers. However, as time passes, the scope of the issue will continue to expand. Stanford researchers have examined the issue of pilot performance as it relates to nicotine consumption and have found a positive correlation, though we're not suggesting that drivers should necessarily smoke to enhance alertness.

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40 years, painting, bean, and the homepage

Many lunar-related events unfolded over the weekend. The homepage was changed accordingly (below)

One of the more interesting stories is the painting of Alan Bean, 4th person on the moon.

Photoconcept is derived from one of the many iterations of Lego space, over the years.

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Amateur Spots Jupiter Collision

Last Sunday, a previously uncharted object smashed into the planet Jupiter, leaving an impact scar the size of the earth. First spotted by an amateur astronomer, Anthony Wesley in Australia as a dark speck on Jupiter's flank, JPL scientists followed-up and confirmed that a strike did take place. In 1994, scientists had predicted that comet Shoemaker-Levy 9 would impact Jupiter, but in this recent case there was no advance warning.

The object most likely was a comet.

Since the event, a debate has ensued over whether Jupiter is a help or a hindrance to life on earth. Is the planet a cosmic catcher's glove, sweeping up errant objects with its size and gravity? Or, on the other hand, does it's gravity turn harmless objects on safe trajectories in the outer solar system into wild pitches that careen into the batter's box of the inner solar system?

Every so often, ancient comets that exist in an archive at the extended limits of the solar system known as the Oort Cloud - which reaches to approximately 1-light year from the sun, hurdle inward toward the planets.

Past impacts on Earth include the Yucatan event, Meteor Crater in Arizona, and the Tunguska object. If not for our biosphere, which erases signs of planetary damage naturally, Earth's surface would more closely resemble the moon.

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New Shipwreck Found

The hearts of marine archaeologists everywhere are abuzz with this news - five vessels covering a period of roughly 500 years, from 100 B.C.E. to 400 C.E. were lost attempting to reach a safe harbor.

The cargo included wine from Italy, prized fish sauce from Spain and north Africa, and a mysterious cargo of metal ingots from Italy, possibly to be used in the construction of statues or weaponry. Scientists believe that the timeline from this small sample suggests that at first Rome was a net exporter of manufactures but became a net importer over time.

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Roman Aqueduct - Astounding 217 PSI

Recent research has found that the Romans, pound for pound or liter for liter, may have been the greatest water-wasters in history. How would you like to chisel a fluid channel through 100 kilometers of stone with hand tools? Well, the Romans did it, according to Mathias Doring, a professor of hydromechanics in Darmstadt, Germany.

The local citizens in Jordan call the works Qanat Far'aun,(Pharaoh's Canal) even though the works date to the Roman period and encompass the removal of 600,000 cubic meters of stone, or 1/4 the volume of Khufu's pyramid - most likely by idle legionaries. The piece further notes that water mains in the parched cities of the Near East and Africa had PSI (pounds per square inch) measures up to an eye-popping 217, which is phenomenal. By comparison, tires typically are inflated to between 30 and 40 PSI. (There was once an ex-hippie, dead-head wood shop instructor fond of saying "Don't go over 40 PSI or you'll pop out your eye" just to shock the bored slackers in his class.)

Read the full article at Spiegel Online.

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A total solar eclipse was visible today from certain locations in the South Pacific, South Asia, and India.

Diamond-ring phase from Varanasi, India

Excerpt from an AP story - From the Ganges River in India to remote islands of the Pacific, the sun rose Wednesday only to vanish again, allowing the stars to twinkle into view in the longest total solar eclipse this century will see - a celestial show that inspired awe and fear in millions across Asia.

Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar

Click-through this link to see the path of totality across the globe (NASA) - in what will be the longest total solar eclipse of the 21st century.

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Yes it Does

Yes, the pic in the test does look like the original MTV spot.

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Happy Birthday Apollo 11

Amidst the media hubbub for the initial flight to the moon mission (though there were numerous Apollo missions before - note this was number 11) one of the facts that is not mentioned is that Tang was not included.

This fact was confirmed by Buzz Aldrin himself in an interview...

"We... instead chose a grapefruit-orange mixture as our citrus drink. If Tang was on our flight, I was unaware of it." It might be that Tang was one of those items of National Security that is usually responded to with the statement 'I can neither confirm nor deny...'

Neil Armstrong has also stated that Tang was not used on the Apollo flights [citation needed - source: Wikipedia].

Tang was used, however, starting with the Gemini program...

A NASA engineer working with the Gemini Space Program on a life-support module explained the story of how and why it was used. Paraphrased:

"... There was a particular component of the Gemini life support-system module which produced H2O (water) among other things. This was a byproduct of a recurring chemical reaction of one of the mechanical devices on the life-support module. The astronauts would use this water to drink during their space flight. The problem was, the astronauts did not like the taste of the water because of some of the byproducts produced, which were not harmful of course. So, they added Tang to make the water taste better ..."

The inventor of Tang, William A. Mitchell, also invented Pop Rocks, which it was rumored, caused the untimely demise of Life Cereal's Mikey.

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Apollo Lookback

While there are many Apollo 11 videos, in this one (below) the suspense kind of builds up, making for a more dramatic lift-off. The pitch and tone of NASA's announcer also increases - leading us to speculate that he may have had a background in broadcasting. (Is this so? - let's research and find out)

The announcer, it turns out, was NASA public affairs officer Jack King.

Also in Alameda, California there is a special Apollo 11 remembrance event with an appearance by Buzz Aldrin aboard the floating, peaceful museum and aircraft carrier Hornet, which was the ship that recovered the space capsule after splashdown (On the calendar, July 24th-26th, 2009). Even if you can't make it during that window, the astronaut quarantine capsule is always on display.

It's also here on our site.

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Heart Healthy Diet and Excercise

Emerging from the 2009 ICAD (International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease) was the recommendation to engage in moderate exercise, implement a diet with healthy elements such as anti-oxidants (grapes, berries, dark green vegetables, tea) whole grains (various) and proteins (especially omega-3 rich foods such as salmon and sardines). These actions, regardless of family history and genetics, will enhance your health profile.



Learning Alzheimer's Risk May Do No Harm

James Watson co-discoverer of the nature of DNA with Francis Crick

Since it was learned that the APOEe4 variant of the APOE gene results in an increased risk of Alzheimer's - particularly so in the homogeneous 4/4 type, with risk between 10-20X the norm, there has been a debate focused on whether or not 'finding out' something so personal was worth it. In fact, one of the codebusters of the human genome, Dr. James Watson, has stated that he was not interested in finding out about APOE risk - however many other scientists, business leaders, and visionaries have publicly stated their desire to know.

Casting fresh light on the situation, a new study based at Boston University evaluating the psychological impact of "knowing" about propensity shows that it might be better to have this knowledge than to remain ignorant - and that people are equipped to handle the truth.

After all, if people are not continually striving, like Prometheus, to advance knowledge - than progress stalls and humanity's increasing cognitive ability - all of which has occurred during the last 1 millisecond of the cosmic clock when abstract thinking arose and was appended to tool-development (consider Lascaux and on petroglyphs) - may stop.

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40th Anniversary of Apollo 11

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 flight to the moon.



Fatigue: Partly Mental

Athletes who swished sports drink around their mouths, without swallowing, scored improved endurance over a group that had just plain water.

Scientists believe that expectation of energy re-supply may trigger a phantom reaction in the mind - driven perhaps by an electrochemical impulse - that provides increased energy to the body.

Read more

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APOE news from Alzheimer's Conference

Scientists in Vienna presented research linking a secondary gene, TOMM40, to Alzheimer's causation along with APOEe4. APOEe4 is responsible for up to 50% of the genetic factor of Alzheimer's,and along with TOMM40, it is theorized that up to 90% of genetic incidence may be accounted for.

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Caloric Restriction in Rhesus Monkeys

The results of a 20-year study in monkeys now shows that caloric restriction is effective in reducing the onset of typical age and lifestyle related diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, tumors, and perhaps specific to these simians, brain atrophy - with the experimental group receiving 30% less calories than the regular diet group.

Monkey on the left, aged 27 years on restricted diet. Monkey on the right, aged 29 years, normal diet.

It remains to be seen how much longer life is extended through the restriction, though this has been demonstrated in less sophisticated lifeforms.

Scientists will learn more about the aging process as it relates to dietary intake, regardless.


Note: Caloric restriction may also work to increase the work output and sentience of flash monkeys, though one might expect them to go ape over it.



Technology Adoption Graph

Dan Bricklin, the co-developer of the early spreadsheet program VisiCalc has this chart on his site, showing the interval between the development of a technology and its adoption. Sometimes the interval is short, sometimes it is long, or it may never happen.

For example, if you walk into the lobby of SRI in Menlo Park there is a memorial to the computer mouse. You can read how SRI played a role in the early development of this technological cast-off by creating and licensing it, in addition to helping Walt Disney figure out which orange grove to build Disneyland in, rather than Burbank. Years later, the mouse became ubiquitous.

Where the interval is long, presumably, user behavior catches up with the vision, market reaction is accelerated by some means, or the product is configured in such a way as to appeal to a broader market (usually components of the above) in addition to enhanced usability or friendliness.

Since people make snap judgments based on just a few milliseconds of detection and analysis, a friendly simple ap is a lot more likely to be loved than something really complex and you know, unfriendly.

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WinSCAT - once more

ISS Astronauts perform cognitive exercises using WinSCAT - the MS Windows spaceflight cognitive assessment tool.


'Barrat & Wakata conducted a session each with the MedOps experiment WinSCAT (Spaceflight Cognitive Assessment Tool for Windows), the fourth onboard session for both of them, by logging in on the MEC laptop and performing the psychological evaluation exercise on the PC-based WinSCAT application. [WinSCAT is a monthly time-constrained questionnaire test of cognitive abilities, routinely performed by astronauts aboard the ISS every 30 days before or after the PHS (periodic health status) test or on special CDR's, crewmembers or flight surgeons request. The test uses cognitive subtests that measure sustained concentration, verbal working memory, attention, short-term memory, spatial processing, and math skills. The five cognitive subtests are Coding Memory - Learning, Continuous Processing Task (CPT), Match to Sample, Mathematics, and Coding Delayed Recall. These WinSCAT subtests are the same as those used during NASA’s long-duration bed rest studies.]'

see the article at Spaceref

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Deep Freeze in Summer

Planck and Herschel, probes launched by the European Space Agency, are now the coldest known objects in the universe, just .1 degree C north of absolute zero.

Flash rendering of a probe and Earth

As they head toward the targeted Lagrange point, a manifestation of a theoretical loophole in planetary gravitational behavior in the solar system, the devices are looking for remnants of the Big Bang that started the known universe, and the chill facilitates sensitivity of the onboard instruments in this task.


The Story of the Herschels (HTML) off-copyright in U.S.

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Abstract Art Brain

Here's another test...on this page it's interwoven with ambient beats...24/7

The spheres are an artists' rendering of the infinite.

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Vatican About Face

Galileo was treated "incorrectly" by the Catholic church, according to a church prelate in Rome, when he was subject to inquiry over his findings. Echoing a theme carried in 'Angels and Demons,' the Vatican now says that the forward momentum of scientific findings should not be parried by dogma and tradition.

In particular, Galileo's conclusion that there appeared to be planetary objects moving externally and independently to the known cosmological system ( e.g., satellites of Jupiter) and that the solar system was heliocentric, rather than geocentric - were threatening the conception of a divinely ordered universe, as it existed at the time.

"Can this teach us something today? I certainly think so," said Monsignor Pagano, head of the Vatican's secret archives.

Read more in the news wire story.

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From Blogging to Something Else

From starting a blog 5+ years ago (before this site existed) this is a record of interesting events looking back - research being published, applications being developed and an inexorable move from a static kind of healthcare to something more dynamic and interactive.

The idea of cognitive fitness and training back then was only advocated by a few psychologists who were on the leading edge, and were beginning to link up divergent points in the mass of research data. Now however, it is becoming a larger and larger phenomenon, particularly when the idea of grafting psychology-based research and neuroscience to gaming, took hold. For me, this occurred in the summer of 2005 on a hike in the desolate high altitude of the Eastern Sierra, when the wide open skies seemed to open up so much possibility - on the same trip, visiting the White Mountains and their Bristlecone pines. It was at this one moment, when the realization struck in how to combine these things-so coming back, after that - everything was seen in a fresh light, and there were some earlier contributory events going back to April of that year.

At that moment our relatively lightly trafficked site began to grow, and at the same time the research work began to come together, including multi-faceted collaboration with Stanford scientists. Leading to where we are now, which is here.

Meanwhile, the social networking phenomenon took off and health is at crossroads of being much more interactive and detailed than it is today.

Going back to the blogging (which is a word seldom heard these days) I don't think the growth and development here would have been possible without the discipline and daily feedback so gained, from the exercise of writing down a series of thoughts, even if not all that profound.


Can 6 Minutes a Week Lead to Fitness?

That's the conclusion of a new study - though it's definitely hard to imagine. 90 minutes a day seems about right, with some rotation of activities, but perhaps this is too much.

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