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Can Brain and Spine Implants Help Overcome Paralysis?

Posted November 15, 2016 9:33 AM by Bayes

Let me start with a word of caution regarding this article. The work done is very preliminary, for a very specific type of spinal injury, and far from any sort of human type trial. Still, the work, from an engineering standpoint is interesting so I thought I'd pass along the article:

Brain and Spine Implants Let a Paralyzed Monkey Walk Again

Enabling someone with paralyzed legs to rise to their feet and walk again has long been considered impossible, the kind of bogus miracle promised by faith healers. But who needs faith healers when you have clever scientists and electricity? In the new field of bioelectronic medicine, doctors may soon make the miraculous a reality. A new experiment using paralyzed monkeys has shown the way toward that goal.

Researchers conducted a proof-of-concept study using two monkeys with partial spinal cord injuries, which prevented brain commands from reaching a back leg. The researchers used electrodes implanted in the monkeys’ brains to record electrical signals from the motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement. They used a computer to decode those signals and translate them into commands sent to other electrodes implanted in the monkeys’ lumbar spines; those electrodes stimulated the spinal cord. This brain-spine interface (BSI) bypassed the injured part of the spinal cord, allowing the monkeys’ natural movement commands to reach their injured legs.

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1 comments; last comment on 11/15/2016
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Impossible EM Drive Works - NASA

Posted November 08, 2016 8:05 AM by Bayes

For years now, the EM Drive, a propellantless thruster that physicists insist should be impossible, has produced measurable force in test after test. On the surface, the thruster appears to violate conservation of momentum, which is why it was dismissed or viewed skeptically at best (me included). However it is becoming increasingly clear that the EM Drive is fooling scientists in a completely unanticipated way or using physics scientists don't fully understand to produce the thrust.

This week, early results from a NASA test of the EM drive was released, and again it looks like the drive is producing thrust. Thrust orders of magnitude higher than that of a solar sail or a powerful laser. The kind of thrust you get when there is some kind of mass being ejected, even though there doesn't seem to be any mass being ejected.

Theories trying to explain the EM drive range from neutrinos somehow involved to vacuum particle ejection to manipulation of dark matter. In other words, no one understands what's going on. However one thing that appears to be more and more certain is the EM Drive produces thrust.

Here is an article detailing the leaked NASA paper.

15 comments; last comment on 11/14/2016
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Self-Driving Trucks In Colorado

Posted October 26, 2016 9:03 AM by Bayes

Self-driving vehicles have always seemed to me to be one of those technologies that is in development for a long time without any real world adoption. I know that Tesla has a version of autopilot that requires you to sit at the wheel and take over if there is any issue, that's not what I mean by real world adoption. I mean take a nap or do something else while the vehicle drives itself.

One of the industries that stands to benefit immensely from self-driving vehicles is the trucking industry. Up until recently things looked pretty safe for truck drivers, but then this happened:

Otto's Robotruck Hauls Budweiser While the Driver Twiddles His Thumbs in the Back

An Otto self-driving truck has just hauled 51,744 cans of Budweiser from Fort Collins, Colo., to Colorado Springs—a nearly 200-kilometer (120-mile) ride—without any human intervention,

“Once you’re on the Interstate, one switch and it’s driving itself down the road,” says backup driver Walter Martin, in this video clip supplied by Otto, which is based in San Francisco. For most of the trip, he monitored the self-driving system from a sleeper berth in the back.

Martin’s been driving long-haul trucks since 2007, but maybe his generation will be the last to do it all the way to retirement. The title of a post on this blog said it all back in May, when we reported on the company’s emergence from stealth mode: “Otto Self-Driving Truck Company Wants to Replace Teamsters.

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23 comments; last comment on 11/02/2016
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A Million People on Mars

Posted September 29, 2016 10:38 AM by Bayes

Elon Musk recently unveiled his dream for Mars colonization, envisioning one million people on Mars by the end of this century.

Here is the 90 minute speech where he outlines his plans:

Don't have 90 minutes? Here is a great write-up summarizing his proposals from ars Technica - Mars Colonization Plan Summary

It's an interesting plan that looks unlikely to succeed given its current form and the costs involved. However, it does seem to lay a framework from which a more practical, perhaps less glamorous plan for colonizing Mars could occur. Historically mass migrations and the formation of colonies have come about because people were searching for a better life and the current country in which they resided didn't mind seeing them leave.

It's not very poetic, but it does seem to point to where some of the funding may come from for the passengers seeking a new start. Certainly once could envision overpopulated countries partially subsidizing the journey (if the costs are around 200,000 or lower). We will have to wait and see, obviously a lot has to go right for SpaceX before this dream has even a chance to become reality...still, it is an inspired vision!

24 comments; last comment on 09/30/2016
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Nokia Achieves Internet Speeds 1000x Faster Than Google Fiber

Posted September 21, 2016 8:01 AM by Bayes

Google Fiber has connection speeds of 1 GB/s. That's about 100x faster than most people's cable modem connection. Naturally Google Fiber is the preferred option where available, but is not available in many places .

What's amazing is that as fast as Google Fiber's connection speed is, it's 1000 times smaller than what Nokia just achieved with some technological innovations. Here is an article talking about Nokia's 1 TB/s achievement:

A Faster Internet: Terabit Networking Was Just Successfully Tested

Fiber Optic Technology

Fiber optic technology, since it was first introduced, has been synonymous to faster internet connections. The technology, which uses optical fiber instead of copper wires, has proven itself more efficient and effective, particularly for long-distance and high-volume applications.

Unfortunately, despite years of research and advancement in the field, creating the infrastructure to make this technology more accessible still proved to be difficult given the complexity and cost of the fiber optic system. So while the possibility of terabit speed fiber optic technology is just around the corner, the reality of it being rolled out for commercial use is a little more difficult.

Perhaps the newest tests from Nokia Bell Labs, Deustche Telekom T-Labs, and Technical University of Munich will mark new possibilities of bringing this exciting upgrade into widespread use.

Probabilistic Constellation Shaping

In a field trial conducted by the organizations, results show that they have successfully achieved 1Tbps data speed. This had previously been achieved in lab conditions but now the testing simulated real network conditions and traffic levels. In a press release, Nokia discussed their use of Probabilistic Constellation Shaping (PCS) as the key factor in the test’s success. Basically, PCS is a new modulation technique which works by having the system choose networking constellation points with lower amplitudes. This makes it less prone to interruption and noise, versus the traditional method (which uses all points), thus allowing transmission rates to be tailored specifically for the transmission channel.

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7 comments; last comment on 09/27/2016
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