Author Topic: Metcalf's Eye on Technology  (Read 12674 times)

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Metcalf's Eye on Technology
« on: August 03, 2006, 08:14:12 am »
I'm resurrecting this thread from HEF v1.    It is intended for entries on technological advances, especially technology often featured in comics.  I'll be submitting intermittently (read when I get around to it) but hopefully about once a week.  Feel free to make submissions and to comment on the entries.
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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Brain Chips Give Paralyzed Patients New Powers
« Reply #1 on: August 03, 2006, 08:17:44 am »
Repost from HEF 1.0:

A neural implant allows paralyzed patients to control computers and robotic arms -- and, maybe one day, their own limbs.

Neuroscientists dream of creating neural prosthetics that would allow paralyzed patients to regain control over their arms and legs. While that goal is still far off, researchers at Brown University and Massachusetts General Hospital are reporting a promising step forward.

In a study published in the journal Nature this week, the researchers describe how two paralyzed patients with a surgically implanted neural device successfully controlled a computer and, in one case, a robotic arm -- using only their minds.

It is the first time such results have been achieved with neural implants in humans. The researchers are now refining the experimental system into a commercial product -- one that could help patients in their daily lives. They plan to make the device wireless and fully implantable and to improve the speed and complexity of movements that patients using the implant can perform.

Complete article here:
http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?id=17163&ch=biotech
« Last Edit: August 03, 2006, 08:24:10 am by Curtis Metcalf »
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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Nanomedicine
« Reply #2 on: August 03, 2006, 08:21:59 am »
Also reposted:

James Baker designs nanoparticles to guide drugs directly into cancer cells, which could lead to far safer treatments.

The treatment begins with an injection of an unremarkable-looking clear fluid. Invisible inside, however, are particles precisely engineered to slip past barriers such as blood vessel walls, latch onto cancer cells, and trick the cells into engulfing them as if they were food. These Trojan particles flag the cells with a fluorescent dye and simultaneously destroy them with a drug.

Developed by University of Michigan physician and researcher James Baker, these multipurpose nanoparticles -- which should be ready for patient trials later this year -- are at the leading edge of a nanotechnology-based medical revolution. Such methodically designed nanoparticles have the potential to transfigure the diagnosis and treatment of not only cancer but virtually any disease. Already, researchers are working on inexpensive tests that could distinguish a case of the sniffles from the early symptoms of a bioterror attack, as well as treatments for disorders ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to cystic fibrosis. The molecular finesse of nanotechnology, Baker says, makes it possible to "find things like tumor cells or inflammatory cells and get into them and change them directly."

Cancer therapies may be the first nanomedicines to take off. Treatments that deliver drugs to the neighborhood of cancer cells in nanoscale capsules have recently become available for breast and ovarian cancers and for Kaposi's sarcoma. The next generation of treatments, not yet approved, improves the drugs by delivering them inside individual cancer cells. This generation also boasts multifunction particles such as Baker's; in experiments reported last June, Baker's particles slowed and even killed human tumors grown in mice far more efficiently than conventional chemotherapy.

"The field is dramatically expanding," says Piotr Grodzinski, program director of the National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. "It's not an evolutionary technology; it's a disruptive technology that can address the problems which former approaches couldn't."

Complete article here:
http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?ch=specialsections&sc=emergingtech&id=16469
« Last Edit: August 03, 2006, 08:24:51 am by Curtis Metcalf »
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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Saving the World, One Video Game at a Time
« Reply #3 on: August 03, 2006, 08:45:49 am »
On the serious games movement:

Saving the World, One Video Game at a Time
by Clive Thompson

Last week, in an effort to solve the Israeli-Palestinian crisis, I withdrew settlements in the Gaza Strip. But then a suicide bomber struck in Jerusalem, the P.L.O. leader called my actions "condescending," and the Knesset demanded a stern response. Desperate to retain control, I launched a missile strike against Hamas militants.

I was playing Peacemaker, a video game in which players assume the role of either the Israeli prime minister or the Palestinian president. Will you pull down the containment wall? Will you beg the United States to pressure your enemy? You make the calls and live with the results the computer generates. Just as in real life, actions that please one side tend to anger the other, making a resolution fiendishly tricky. You can play it over again and again until you get it right, or until the entire region explodes in violence.

"When they hear about Peacemaker, people sometimes go, 'What? A computer game about the Middle East?'" admits Asi Burak, the Israeli-born graduate student who developed it with a team at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. "But people get very engaged. They really try very hard to get a solution. Even after one hour or two hours, they'd come to me and say, you know, I know more about the conflict than when I've read newspapers for 10 years."

Complete article here:
http://www.collisiondetection.net/mt/archives/2006/07/saving_the_worl.html#001541

The Peace Maker game site is here:
http://www.peacemakergame.com/
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Offline Sam Wilson

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Re: Metcalf's Eye on Technology
« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2006, 08:49:03 am »
huh.  That game sounds like Civilization or something, just more contemporary and personal, and people LOVED Civilization, I wonder if the game you mentioned would ever take off like that.

And my wife would  be interested in that nanotech stuff, being a physical therapist and working with patients who have prosthetic limbs and all that...

Offline The Dark Wright

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Re: Metcalf's Eye on Technology
« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2006, 02:29:59 pm »
They had a write-up of PeaceMaker in the Times -- seemed cool, you got Helo's that will drop food to starving countries and all sorts of jobs/objectives similar to that. A very different take vs. the likes of Commandos or Empire, etc.

I'm also eager to see how this nano-tech is gonna pan out. I hope people with diseases not as dibilitating as Cancer will be able to take part and benefit from this treatment eventually.

Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Metcalf's Eye on Technology
« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2006, 05:41:42 pm »
They had a write-up of PeaceMaker in the Times -- seemed cool, you got Helo's that will drop food to starving countries and all sorts of jobs/objectives similar to that. A very different take vs. the likes of Commandos or Empire, etc.

The article I posted ran in the NY Times.  Maybe it's the same one you're talking about. 

I'm also eager to see how this nano-tech is gonna pan out. I hope people with diseases not as dibilitating as Cancer will be able to take part and benefit from this treatment eventually.

The nanomedicine is one of many fascinating possibilities for nanotech.  I would imagine that other diseases could be treated at the molecular level eventually.
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Offline Toya

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Re: Nanomedicine
« Reply #7 on: August 04, 2006, 12:08:23 am »
Also reposted:

James Baker designs nanoparticles to guide drugs directly into cancer cells, which could lead to far safer treatments.

The treatment begins with an injection of an unremarkable-looking clear fluid. Invisible inside, however, are particles precisely engineered to slip past barriers such as blood vessel walls, latch onto cancer cells, and trick the cells into engulfing them as if they were food. These Trojan particles flag the cells with a fluorescent dye and simultaneously destroy them with a drug.

Developed by University of Michigan physician and researcher James Baker, these multipurpose nanoparticles -- which should be ready for patient trials later this year -- are at the leading edge of a nanotechnology-based medical revolution. Such methodically designed nanoparticles have the potential to transfigure the diagnosis and treatment of not only cancer but virtually any disease. Already, researchers are working on inexpensive tests that could distinguish a case of the sniffles from the early symptoms of a bioterror attack, as well as treatments for disorders ranging from rheumatoid arthritis to cystic fibrosis. The molecular finesse of nanotechnology, Baker says, makes it possible to "find things like tumor cells or inflammatory cells and get into them and change them directly."

Cancer therapies may be the first nanomedicines to take off. Treatments that deliver drugs to the neighborhood of cancer cells in nanoscale capsules have recently become available for breast and ovarian cancers and for Kaposi's sarcoma. The next generation of treatments, not yet approved, improves the drugs by delivering them inside individual cancer cells. This generation also boasts multifunction particles such as Baker's; in experiments reported last June, Baker's particles slowed and even killed human tumors grown in mice far more efficiently than conventional chemotherapy.

"The field is dramatically expanding," says Piotr Grodzinski, program director of the National Cancer Institute's Alliance for Nanotechnology in Cancer. "It's not an evolutionary technology; it's a disruptive technology that can address the problems which former approaches couldn't."

Complete article here:
http://www.technologyreview.com/read_article.aspx?ch=specialsections&sc=emergingtech&id=16469



Wow. I'll have a more in-depth comment later. 

Edit:

Well, after a thorogh read it looks as though this technology is to improve the adminstering of drugs available--not a whole new drug itself. The newest wave of science and engineering combination: Nanomedicine.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2006, 05:47:25 am by Toya »
...Rassclaat.

Offline Wise Son

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Re: Metcalf's Eye on Technology
« Reply #8 on: August 08, 2006, 07:10:32 am »
New, intuitive computer interface

If you've seen Minority Report, you'll recognise the concept.

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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Jurassic Park?
« Reply #9 on: August 15, 2006, 12:58:34 pm »
Well, Pleistocene Park doesn't have the same ring.  Nevertheless:

Mammoths may roam again after 27,000 years

BODIES of extinct Ice Age mammals, such as woolly mammoths, that have been frozen in permafrost for thousands of years may contain viable sperm that could be used to bring them back from the dead, scientists said yesterday.

Research has indicated that mammalian sperm can survive being frozen for much longer than was previously thought, suggesting that it could potentially be recovered from species that have died out.

Several well-preserved mammoth carcasses have been found in the permafrost of Siberia, and scientists estimate that there could be millions more.

Last year a Canadian team demonstrated that it was possible to extract DNA from the specimens, and announced the sequencing of about 1 per cent of the genome of a mammoth that died about 27,000 years ago.

With access to the mammoth’s genetic code, and with frozen sperm recovered from testes, it may be possible to resurrect an animal that is very similar to a mammoth.

The mammoth is a close genetic cousin of the modern Asian elephant, and scientists think that the two may be capable of interbreeding.

The frozen mammoth sperm could be injected into elephant eggs, producing offspring that would be 50 per cent mammoth.

Complete article here:
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-2312860,00.html
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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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We Can Detect Liquid Explosives
« Reply #10 on: August 18, 2006, 08:40:34 am »
This subject seemed timely.

We Can Detect Liquid Explosives

While the process isn't perfect, scanning machines do exist to detect liquid explosives like the ones purportedly at the heart of the terrorist plot broken up this week.

But don't expect the machines to be rushed into airports soon. Cost and logistical issues present challenges for these devices.

Consider work that's been done at Rapiscan Systems, part of OSI Systems. Rapiscan is developing four kinds of devices -- some based on technologies more than 10 years old -- that can detect liquid or gel-based explosives. Two that would work on carry-on bags already have been tested by the Transportation Security Administration and "could be deployed this afternoon," said Peter Kant, the company's vice president for government affairs.

But none are being used in the United States. Some are in place overseas, though Kant said those aren't in airports.

One big reason is that it is not easy to integrate the explosive-detecting machines, some of which can cost $250,000, into existing security checkpoints. Because each briefcase, purse or other carry-on bag has to be put in a special drawer for analysis, using the detectors could significantly bog down passenger screening.

Homeland security analyst Brian Ruttenbur of Morgan Keegan also points out that the technology still produces a relatively high number of false alarms.

For those reasons -- and because there still has not been a successful attack using liquid explosives -- Ruttenbur believes the TSA won't be pressed to overhaul the current screening regimen.

Complete article here:
http://www.wired.com/news/wireservice/0,71584-0.html?tw=wn_technology_7
« Last Edit: August 22, 2006, 08:37:51 pm by Curtis Metcalf »
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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Science or Fantasy?
« Reply #11 on: August 22, 2006, 08:37:24 pm »
From an ad appearing in The Economist from a company called Steorn:

Quote
Imagine
A world with an infinite supply of pure energy.
Never having to recharge your phone.
Never having to refuel your car.

Welcome to our world
At Steorn we have developed a technology that produces free, clean and
constant energy. Our technology has been independently validated by
engineers and scientists—always behind closed doors, always off the record,
always proven to work.

The Challenge
We are therefore issuing a challenge to the scientific community: test our
technology and report your findings to the world.
We are seeking a jury of twelve—the most qualified and the most cynical.


Apparently they have invented the inertia winder.  ::)

FWIW, I agree with this guy:
http://www.collisiondetection.net/

Quote
Whatever. This is clearly junk science, of course. But as Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber notes, Steorn hews perfectly to the "seven warning signs of bogus science" laid out in the Chronicle of Higher Education a few years ago. To wit:

    1. The discoverer pitches the claim directly to the media.
    2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his or her work.
    3. The scientific effect involved is always at the very limit of detection.
    4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal.
    5. The discoverer says a belief is credible because it has endured for centuries.
    6. The discoverer has worked in isolation.
    7. The discoverer must propose new laws of nature to explain an observation.

Sounds about right -- and come to think of it, intelligent design fits all seven criteria perfectly, too.
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Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Bionic Arm
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2006, 07:38:08 am »
It's not quite Jaime Sommers but it's still pretty amazing.

For 1st Woman With Bionic Arm, a New Life Is Within Reach

By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 14, 2006; Page A01

The first time Claudia Mitchell peeled a banana one-handed, she cried.

It was several months after she lost her left arm at the shoulder in a motorcycle accident. She used her feet to hold the banana and peeled it with her right hand. She felt like a monkey.

"It was not a good day," Mitchell, 26, recalled this week. "Although I accomplished the mission, emotionally it was something to be reckoned with."

Now, Mitchell can peel a banana in a less simian posture. All she has to do is place her prosthetic left arm next to the banana and think about grabbing it. The mechanical hand closes around the fruit and she's ready to peel.

Mitchell, who lives in Ellicott City, is the fourth person -- and first woman -- to receive a "bionic" arm, which allows her to control parts of the device by her thoughts alone. The device, designed by physicians and engineers at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, works by detecting the movements of a chest muscle that has been rewired to the stumps of nerves that once went to her now-missing limb.

Mitchell and the first person to get a bionic arm -- a power-line technician who lost both arms to a severe electric shock -- will demonstrate their prostheses today at a news event in Washington. The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago is part of a multi-lab effort, funded with nearly $50 million from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), to create more useful and natural artificial limbs for amputees.

Complete article here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/09/13/AR2006091302271.html
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Offline bluezulu

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Re: Metcalf's Eye on Technology
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2006, 07:55:39 am »
and the six millon dollar man

Man's Bionic Arm Provides Hope for GIs
Thursday, September 14, 2006 12:34 AM EDT
The Associated Press
By BILL POOVEY

DAYTON, Tenn. (AP) — Jesse Sullivan has two prosthetic arms, but he can climb a ladder at his house and roll on a fresh coat of paint. He's also good with a weed-whacker, bending his elbow and rotating his forearm to guide the machine. He's even mastered a more sensitive maneuver — hugging his grandchildren.

The motions are coordinated and smooth because his left arm is a bionic device controlled by his brain. He thinks, "Close hand," and electrical signals sent through surgically re-routed nerves make it happen.

Doctors describe Sullivan as the first amputee with a thought-controlled artificial arm.

Researchers encouraged Sullivan, who became an amputee in an industrial accident, not to go easy on his experimental limb.

"When I left, they said don't bring it back looking new," the 59-year-old Sullivan said with a grin, his brow showing sweat beneath a fraying Dollywood amusement park cap. At times he been so rough with the bionic arm that it has broken, including once when he pulled the end off starting a lawnmower.

That prompted researchers to make improvements, part of a U.S. government initiative to refine artificial limbs that connect body and mind. The National Institutes of Health has supported the research, joined more recently by the military's research-and-development wing, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Some 411 U.S. troops in Iraq and 37 in Afghanistan have had wounds that cost them at least one limb, the Army Medical Command says.

Although work that created Sullivan's arm preceded the research by DARPA, he said he's proud to test a type of bionic arm that soldiers could someday use. "Those guys are heroes in my book," he said, "and they should have the best there is."

"We're excited about collaborating with the military," said the developer of Sullivan's arm, Dr. Todd Kuiken, director of neuroengineering at the Center for Artificial Limbs at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, one of 35 partners now in a DARPA project to develop a state-of-the-art arm.

Sullivan's bionic arm represents an advance over typical artificial arms, like the right-arm prosthesis he uses, which has a hook and operates with sequential motions. There is no perceivable delay in the motions of Sullivan's flesh-colored, plastic-like left arm. Until now, it has been nearly impossible to recreate the subtle and complex motion of a human arm.

"It is not as smooth as a normal arm but it works much smoother than a normal prosthesis," Kuiken said.

Sullivan lost his arms in May 2001 working as a utility lineman. He suffered electrical burns so severe that doctors had to amputate both his arms at the shoulder.

Seven weeks later, due to what Sullivan calls being in the right place at the right time, he was headed to meet the Chicago researchers.

"Jesse is an absolutely remarkable human being, with or without his injuries," Kuiken said.

Sullivan said his bionic arm isn't much like the one test pilot Steve Austin got in the '70s TV series "The Six Million Dollar Man." "I don't really feel superhuman or anything," he said.

"It's not magic," added his 4-year-old grandson, Luke Westlake, as he placed a nut in Sullivan's grip and challenged Paw-Paw to crack it open.

Not magic but high-tech science makes the bionic arm work. A procedure called "muscle reinnervation," developed by Kuiken and used on five additional patients so far, is the key.

For Sullivan, it involved grafting shoulder nerves, which used to go to his arms, to his pectoral muscle. The grafts receive thought-generated impulses, and the muscle activity is picked up by electrodes; these relay the signals to the arm's computer, which causes motors to move the elbow and hand, mimicking a normal arm.

"The nerves grow into the chest muscles, so when the patient thinks, 'Close hand,' a portion of the chest muscle contracts," according to an institute fact sheet.

Kuiken added: "Basically it is connecting the dots. Finding the nerves. We have to free the nerves and see how far they reach" and connect to muscles.

About three months after the surgery, Sullivan first noticed voluntary twitches in his pectoral muscle when he tried to bend his missing elbow, the institute said. By five months, he could activate four different areas of his major pectoral muscle.

Trying to flex his missing elbow would cause a strong contraction of the muscle area just beneath the clavicle. When he mentally closed his missing hand, a signal could be detected on the pectoral region below the clavicle, and when he tried to open his hand there was a separate signal. Extending his elbow and hand caused a contraction of the lower pectoral muscle.

When Sullivan's chest was touched he "had a sensation of touch to different parts of his hand and arm," the institute said. "The patient had substituted sensation of touch, graded pressure, sharp-dull and thermal sensation."

Sullivan said of the thought-controlled arm: "When I use the new prosthesis I just do things. I don't have to think about it."

Kuiken describes the procedure on Sullivan as the first time such a graft has been used to control an artificial limb.

Gregory Clark, associate professor of bioengineering and prosthetics researcher at the University of Utah, agreed, adding that a conventional prosthethic limb is "limited in a number of ways in the types of movements. Moreover, it can do only one of those movements at any particular moment."

Clark said a natural arm is capable of 22 discrete movements. Sullivan's bionic limb is capable of four right now, though researchers are working to make them better.

"Four is wonderful," Clark said.

Sullivan said his bionic arm allows him to rotate his upper arm, bend his elbow, rotate his wrist, and open and close his hand — in some instances simultaneously.

He and Kuiken were set to attend a Washington, D.C., news conference Thursday with Claudia Mitchell, the first woman to receive the bionic arm. The 26-year-old Mitchell was injured in a motorcycle accident after she left the Marines in 2004.

Trying his new arm at increasingly challenging tasks, Sullivan acknowledges he has good days and bad ones.

"At first, I couldn't watch when he tried doing this stuff," said Sullivan's wife of 22 years, Carolyn.

She said she first thought after the accident that he was going to die. She gave up her catering business to tend to him around the clock.

But eventually he forced her to occasionally run errands and leave him alone.

"He finally got mad and yelled at me and told me to go to the store," she said, laughing.

Enormous lifestyle adjustments that the injuries and rehabilitation required were not as hard as might be expected, she said.

"For some reason, we just sort of rolled into it. I just knew he wasn't going to let anything keep him down," she said.

She said medication helps control his pain, and sometimes he resorts to self hypnosis. "They taught him how to do that," she said, adding she doesn't consider herself to be a caretaker.

"I do all the yard work," Jesse Sullivan said. "I take out the garbage."

He can even hold a fork to eat.

And there's another task the bionic grandfather of 10 looks forward to mastering: casting a fishing line.


Offline Curtis Metcalf

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Re: Metcalf's Eye on Technology
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2006, 09:39:33 am »
New, intuitive computer interface
If you've seen Minority Report, you'll recognise the concept.


I finally got around to watching this clip.  That is fascinating.  I had always heard the TED conferences were pretty amazing.  I wonder how generally applicable that style of interface is.  It seems really well-suited for some things, maybe less so for others.  Having used some of the voice recognition software, I can't really see that becoming widespread, especially in a cubicle environment. 
"Seek first to understand, then to be understood."
"Be hard on systems, but soft on people."