Swedish dance-pop star Robyn seems to like robots. “Fembot,” “Robotboy,” and “The Girl and the Robot” (which she recorded with Röyksopp) are all part of her catalog. So far, the only thing that’s been missing is a droid of her own—and now, thanks to some creative robotics students in Stockholm, she has one.
The Robot Project is a nearly year-long endeavor by a group of mechatronics students at Sweden’s technical university KTH. (And yes, “mechatronics” sounds cooler than any other field you could possibly pursue.) The robot, which was is made of an amalgamation of moped motors and 3-D printed parts, listens to music and dances on its own (as is only right). And yes, Robyn gave input on the project; she even gave the team a book about the Apollo moon landing to help explain her aesthetic vision.
“We got that book from Robyn after one of our first meetings with her,” says Elias Josefsson, one of the engineers who worked on the ‘bot. “We discussed how the look and feel would be of the robot and she described the moon lander as an example where something is not designed with a fancy cover, but instead the rawness can be beautiful with all necessary parts visible.”
Are we all at the mercy of our brain chemistry? Do you think that the amygdala and the hippocampus are fantastical sea monsters? What can an MRI scan tell us? Could you explain to dinner-party guests why we don't giggle when we tickle ourselves? 30-Second Brain is here to fill your mind with the science of exactly what's happening inside your head. Using no more than two pages, 300 words and an illustration, this is the quickest way to understand the wiring and function of the most complex and intricate mechanism in the human body. Discover how the networks of 90 billion nerve cells work together to produce perception, action, cognition and emotion. Explore how your brain defines your personality, and what it gets up to while you are asleep. Illustrated with mind-bending graphics and supported by biographies of pioneers in the field of neuroscience, it's the book to get your grey matter thinking about your grey matter.
Today’s neuroscientists need expertise in more than just the human brain. They must also be accomplished hardware engineers, capable of building new tools for analyzing the brain and collecting data from it.
There are many off-the-shelf commercial instruments that help you do such things, but they’re usually expensive and hard to customize, says Josh Siegle, a doctoral student at the Wilson Lab at MIT. “Neuroscience tends to have a pretty hacker-oriented culture,” he says. “A lot of people have a very specific idea of how an experiment needs to be done, so they build their own tools.”
The problem, Siegle says, is that few neuroscientists share the tools they build. And because they’re so focused on creating tools for their specific experiments, he says, researchers don’t often consider design principles like modularity, which would allow them to reuse tools in other experiments. That can mean too much redundant work as researchers spend time solving problems others already have solved, and building things from scratch instead of repurposing old tools.
That’s why Siegle and Jakob Voigts of the Moore Lab at Brown University founded Open Ephys, a project for sharing open source neuroscience hardware designs. They started by posting designs for the tools they use to record electrical signals in the brain. They hope to kick start an open source movement within neuroscience by making their designs public, and encouraging others to do the same. “We don’t necessarily want people to use our tools specifically,” Siegle says. “We just want to build awareness of how open source eliminates redundancy, reduces costs, and increase productivity.”
Energy efficiency in living things often means combining material and fuel recycling with hitching a free ride. Soaring birds, drifting larvae and even prairie dogs make use of dependable physical forces in order to survive with the least amount of expended energy. Putting these principles into practice, however, demands a deep knowledge of the processes involved.
"Rene Binet, a French architect and artist, created the entrance for the Paris Exposition Universelle of 1900. Binet modeled that main entrance after an illustration of Clathrocanium reginae by Ernst Haeckel. When you consider that this microscopic sea fauna, a Radiolarian, inspired a structure that used about 192 tonnes of metal and cost about 676,000 French fr., you may want to view Rene Binet’s and Ernst Haeckel’s illustrations to see how they might be of inspiration to you.."
The New Science of Cities presents a herculean attempt to bring together widely fragmented approaches to making sense of human social organization with the goal of eventually establishing a consolidated “science of cities” able to answer our questions. Michael Batty bases his argument on the interplay among space, dynamics, and relations. He holds that “to understand place, we must understand flows, and to understand flows we must understand networks.” Batty (a geographer at University College London) also stresses two other principles: an intrinsic order of scale determines a city's form and function, and a science of cities should not merely observe but also predict. The book draws on the work of urbanists, economists, mathematicians, and physicists as well as almost five decades of his own contributions to urban studies.
People rely on having persistent Internet connectivity from their homes and mobile devices. However, unlike links in the core of the Internet, the links that connect people's homes and mobile devices, known as "last-mile" links, are not redundant. As a result, the reliability of any given link is of paramount concern: when last-mile links fail, people can be completely disconnected from the Internet. In addition to lacking redundancy, Internet last-mile links are vulnerable to failure. Such links can fail because the cables and equipment that make up last-mile links are exposed to the elements; for example, weather can cause tree limbs to fall on overhead cables, and flooding can destroy underground equipment. They can also fail, eventually, because cellular last-mile links can drain a smartphone's battery if an application tries to communicate when signal strength is weak. In this dissertation, I defend the following thesis: By building on existing infrastructure, it is possible to (1) observe the reliability of Internet last-mile links across different weather conditions and link types; (2) improve the energy efficiency of cellular Internet last-mile links; and (3) provide an incrementally deployable, energy-efficient Internet last-mile downlink that is highly resilient to weather-related failures. I defend this thesis by designing, implementing, and evaluating systems.
Ashish Umre's insight:
Winner of the the 2013 ACM SIGCOMM Doctoral Dissertation Award
Deprived of sight, blind people manage to squeeze an amazing amount of information out of their other senses. Doing this requires their brains to do some reorganizing. To learn about some of these changes, scientists studied the brains of blind people who’ve learned to use an augmented reality system that converts images into soundscapes.
The system was invented in the early ’90s, but it’s not widely used. The way it works is a person puts on a pair of goggles with a built-in camera and software that converts images captured by the camera into sounds. For example, the pitch of the sound (high or low) indicates the vertical position of an object; the timing and duration of the sound indicate the object’s horizontal position and width (you can see and hear a demo of a similar technology here). For real world scenes, the sounds are complex — in fact, they sound a bit like a garbled transmission from an alien spacecraft.
But with enough practice people can learn to interpret the sounds and form a mental image of objects — including people — that appear in front of them.
Quorum sensing (QS) is a cell–cell communication system that controls gene expression in many bacterial species, mediated by diffusible signal molecules. Although the intracellular regulatory mechanisms of QS are often well-understood, the functional roles of QS remain controversial. In particular, the use of multiple signals by many bacterial species poses a serious challenge to current functional theories. Here, we address this challenge by showing that bacteria can use multiple QS signals to infer both their social (density) and physical (mass-transfer) environment. Analytical and evolutionary simulation models show that the detection of, and response to, complex social/physical contrasts requires multiple signals with distinct half-lives and combinatorial (nonadditive) responses to signal concentrations. We test these predictions using the opportunistic pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa and demonstrate significant differences in signal decay between its two primary signal molecules, as well as diverse combinatorial responses to dual-signal inputs. QS is associated with the control of secreted factors, and we show that secretome genes are preferentially controlled by synergistic “AND-gate” responses to multiple signal inputs, ensuring the effective expression of secreted factors in high-density and low mass-transfer environments. Our results support a new functional hypothesis for the use of multiple signals and, more generally, show that bacteria are capable of combinatorial communication.
A super-secure place for sensitive data to mingle could free companies to get the benefits of sharing it without risking leaks.
As companies from the financial sector to the health industry amass ever larger, more detailed databases of information about people, it is clear that combining different data sets can offer powerful insights. But to protect users’ privacy, many of these data sets stay locked up inside corporate firewalls.
Chipmaker Intel thinks it has a way to let valuable data be combined and analyzed without endangering anyone’s privacy. Its researchers are testing a super-secure data locker where a company could combine its sensitive data with that from another party without either side risking that raw information being seen or stolen.
The Final Volume of the Groundbreaking Trilogy on Agent-Based Modeling In this pioneering synthesis, Joshua Epstein introduces a new theoretical entity: Agent_Zero. This software individual, or "agent," is endowed with distinct emotional/affective, cognitive/deliberative, and social modules. Grounded in contemporary neuroscience, these internal components interact to generate observed, often far-from-rational, individual behavior. When multiple agents of this new type move and interact spatially, they collectively generate an astonishing range of dynamics spanning the fields of social conflict, psychology, public health, law, network science, and economics. Epstein weaves a computational tapestry with threads from Plato, Hume, Darwin, Pavlov, Smith, Tolstoy, Marx, James, and Dostoevsky, among others. This transformative synthesis of social philosophy, cognitive neuroscience, and agent-based modeling will fascinate scholars and students of every stripe. Epstein's computer programs are provided in the book or on its Princeton University Press website, along with movies of his "computational parables." Agent_Zero is a signal departure in what it includes (e.g., a new synthesis of neurally grounded internal modules), what it eschews (e.g., standard behavioral imitation), the phenomena it generates (from genocide to financial panic), and the modeling arsenal it offers the scientific community. For generative social science, Agent_Zero presents a groundbreaking vision and the tools to realize it.
We discuss models and data of crowd disasters, crime, terrorism, war and disease spreading to show that conventional recipes, such as deterrence strategies, are not effective and sufficient to contain them. The failure of many conventional approaches results from their neglection of feedback loops, instabilities and/or cascade effects, due to which equilibrium models do often not provide a good picture of the actual system behavior. However, the complex and often counter-intuitive behavior of social systems and their macro-level collective dynamics can be understood by means of complexity science, which enables one to address the aforementioned problems more successfully. We highlight that a suitable system design and management can help to stop undesirable cascade effects and to enable favorable kinds of self-organization in the system. In such a way, complexity science can help to save human lives.
How to Save Human Lives with Complexity Science Dirk Helbing, Dirk Brockmann, Thomas Chadefaux, Karsten Donnay, Ulf Blanke, Olivia Woolley-Meza, Mehdi Moussaid, Anders Johansson, Jens Krause, Sebastian Schutte, Matjaz Perc
A master chef can think about a combination of two, maybe three ingredients at a time. Watson, the same IBM supercomputer that won Jeopardy in 2011, can crunch through a quintillion. That's a one and 18 zeroes, as the IBM researchers like to say. But does that make their computer a good cook?
For about two years, IBM's cognitive computing group has been working to apply Watson's vast processing ability to food. The system analyzed about 35,000 existing recipes and about 1,000 chemical flavor compounds, which allows it to make educated guesses about which ingredient combinations will delight and, just as importantly, surprise. From there, it tries to encourage unconventional combinations — like chocolate, coffee, and garlic — in order to produce dishes that have never been made before.
"Creativity is the crowning achievement of human intelligence," says Steven Abrams, director of the Watson group. "Can we make a computer be creative?"
Understanding how whisker-based tactile information is represented in the nervous system requires quantification of sensory input and observation of neural activity during whisking and whisker touch. Chronic electrophysiological methods have long been available to study neural responses in awake and behaving animals; however, methods to quantify the sensory input on whiskers have not yet been developed. Here we describe an unsupervised algorithm to track whisker movements in high-speed video recordings and to quantify the statistics of the tactile information on whiskers in freely behaving animals during haptic object exploration. The algorithm does not require human identification of whiskers, nor does it assume the shape, location, orientation, length of whiskers, or direction of the whisker movements. The algorithm performs well on temporary loss of whisker visibility and under low-light/low-contrast conditions even with inherent anisotropic noise and non-Gaussian variability in the signal. Using this algorithm, we define the speed [protraction (P), 1,081 +/- 322; retraction (R), 1,564 +/- 549 degrees /s], duration (P, 34 +/- 10; R, 24 +/- 8 ms), amplitude (P = R, 40 +/- 13 degrees ), and frequency (19 +/- 7 Hz) of active whisking in freely behaving mice. We furthermore quantify whisker deflection induced changes in whisking kinematics and calculate the statistics (i.e., speed, amplitude and duration) of whisker touch and finally show that whisker deprivation does not alter whisking kinematics during haptic exploration.
This paper examines how features of organizational architecture, with organizations whose members screen projects, affect organizational screening performance. The paper explores consequences for organizational design of a theorem (attributed to Von Neumann by Moore and Shannon) on how to build reliable networks using unreliable components. The paper examines general properties of committee decision making and shows the superiority of committees with respect to composition, that is when each member of organization is replaced by a replica of the entire organization. The paper links with the modern Condorcet Jury Theorem literature. It also shows that organizational screening performance is sigmoid in individual screening performance for hierarchies of polyarchies and for polyarchies of hierarchies. The supermodularity and sub-modularity properties of organizations’ screening performance allows us to link with results from the theory of teams. When agents are heterogeneous, hierarchies favor sorting and polyarchies favor mixing.
Social networks pervade our everyday lives: we interact, influence, and are influenced by our friends and acquaintances. With the advent of the World Wide Web, large amounts of data on social networks have become available, allowing the quantitative analysis of the distribution of information on them, including behavioral traits and fads. Recent studies of correlations among members of a social network, who exhibit the same trait, have shown that individuals influence not only their direct contacts but also friends’ friends, up to a network distance extending beyond their closest peers. Here, we show how such patterns of correlations between peers emerge in networked populations. We use standard models (yet reflecting intrinsically different mechanisms) of information spreading to argue that empirically observed patterns of correlation among peers emerge naturally from a wide range of dynamics, being essentially independent of the type of information, on how it spreads, and even on the class of underlying network that interconnects individuals. Finally, we show that the sparser and clustered the network, the more far reaching the influence of each individual will be. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevLett.112.098702
Origin of Peer Influence in Social Networks Phys. Rev. Lett. 112, 098702 – Published 6 March 2014 Flávio L. Pinheiro, Marta D. Santos, Francisco C. Santos, and Jorge M. Pacheco
A new security camera system seems to be on the anvil for Delhi Metro. The Central Industrial Security Force and the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation are contemplating on adopting a new system that allows CCTV cameras to pick up situations which do not fall within the normal security parameter.
The system will work like artificial intelligence, wherein security cameras will be able to identify an unclaimed bag or a person crossing the security line at a platform. These images will immediately pop up on the monitor, thus drawing the attention of the security personnel.
The CCTV cameras installed at Metro stations in Delhi are partly monitored by the CISF and partly by the DMRC (Delhi Metro Rail Corporation). The CISF has altogether 5300 CCTV cameras installed at Metro stations, which primarily monitor the peripheries and the platform. Cameras within the train compartments are monitored by the DMRC.
GitHub today announced the GitHub Developer Program to provide all developers with the resources they need to “build integrations for better collaboration, higher code quality, easy deployment and so much more.” In other words, GitHub wants to do more than just offer an API.
Nanotechnology doesn’t get as much attention these days as genetic and stem cell approaches to medicine, but all three aim to target the causes of illness with greater precision and less collateral damage in the rest of the body than conventional approaches.
Nanotech breakthroughs have come more slowly than many had hoped, but a recent success shows progress toward the goal of using tiny nanomachines to repair or destroy only specific diseased cells. But before nanomachines can deliver medicine directly to cells’ door, they have to work properly in a biological environment.
Researchers have made an important step in that direction, navigating nanomotors inside living human cells for what they say is the first time.
The search for neuronal and psychological underpinnings of pathological gambling in humans would benefit from investigating related phenomena also outside of our species. In this paper, we present a survey of studies in three widely different populations of agents, namely rodents, non-human primates, and robots. Each of these populations offer valuable and complementary insights on the topic, as the literature demonstrates. In addition, we highlight the deep and complex connections between relevant results across these different areas of research (i.e., cognitive and computational neuroscience, neuroethology, cognitive primatology, neuropsychiatry, evolutionary robotics), to make the case for a greater degree of methodological integration in future studies on pathological gambling.
Social networks readily transmit information, albeit with less than perfect fidelity. We present a large-scale measurement of this imperfect information copying mechanism by examining the dissemination and evolution of thousands of memes, collectively replicated hundreds of millions of times in the online social network Facebook. The information undergoes an evolutionary process that exhibits several regularities. A meme's mutation rate characterizes the population distribution of its variants, in accordance with the Yule process. Variants further apart in the diffusion cascade have greater edit distance, as would be expected in an iterative, imperfect replication process. Some text sequences can confer a replicative advantage; these sequences are abundant and transfer "laterally" between different memes. Subpopulations of the social network can preferentially transmit a specific variant of a meme if the variant matches their beliefs or culture. Understanding the mechanism driving change in diffusing information has important implications for how we interpret and harness the information that reaches us through our social networks.
Information Evolution in Social Networks Lada A. Adamic, Thomas M. Lento, Eytan Adar, Pauline C. Ng
This interview with Alessandro Vespignani is about the future of modelling and forecasting of epidemics and is part of the Futurium Talking Futures interview series. More information is available here: