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Science

Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black? 203

Posted by timothy
from the enoy-your-lovely-ochre-sky dept.
HughPickens.com writes Color scientists already have a word for it: Dressgate. Now the Washington Post reports that a puzzling thing happened on Thursday night consuming millions — perhaps tens of millions — across the planet and trending on Twitter ahead of even Jihadi John's identification. The problem was this: Roughly three-fourths of people swore that this dress was white and gold, according to BuzzFeed polling but everyone else said it's dress was blue. Others said the dress could actually change colors. So what's going on? According to the NYT our eyes are able to assign fixed colors to objects under widely different lighting conditions. This ability is called color constancy. But the photograph doesn't give many clues about the ambient light in the room. Is the background bright and the dress in shadow? Or is the whole room bright and all the colors are washed out? If you think the dress is in shadow, your brain may remove the blue cast and perceive the dress as being white and gold. If you think the dress is being washed out by bright light, your brain may perceive the dress as a darker blue and black.

According to Beau Lotto, the brain is doing something remarkable and that's why people are so fascinated by this dress. "It's entertaining two realities that are mutually exclusive. It's seeing one reality, but knowing there's another reality. So you're becoming an observer of yourself. You're having tremendous insight into what it is to be human. And that's the basis of imagination." As usual xkcd has the final word.
It would make the comments more informatively scannable if you include your perceived color pair in the title of any comments below.
Programming

Invented-Here Syndrome 145

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-of-this-has-happened-before-and-all-of-this-will-happen-again dept.
edA-qa writes: Are you afraid to write code? Does the thought linger in your brain that somewhere out there somebody has already done this? Do you find yourself trapped in an analysis cycle where nothing is getting done? Is your product mutating to accommodate third party components? If yes, then perhaps you are suffering from invented-here syndrome.

Most of use are aware of not-invented-here syndrome, but the opposite problem is perhaps equally troublesome. We can get stuck in the mindset that there must be a product, library, or code sample, that already does what we want. Instead of just writing the code we need a lot of effort is spent testing out modules and trying to accommodate our own code. At some point we need to just say, 'stop!', and write the code ourselves.
Biotech

Xeroxed Gene May Have Paved the Way For Large Human Brain 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the look-at-the-big-brain-on-test-subject-35 dept.
sciencehabit writes Last week, researchers expanded the size of the mouse brain by giving rodents a piece of human DNA. Now another team has topped that feat, pinpointing a human gene that not only grows the mouse brain but also gives it the distinctive folds found in primate brains. The work suggests that scientists are finally beginning to unravel some of the evolutionary steps that boosted the cognitive powers of our species. "This study represents a major milestone in our understanding of the developmental emergence of human uniqueness," says Victor Borrell Franco, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante, Spain, who was not involved with the work.
AI

Facebook AI Director Discusses Deep Learning, Hype, and the Singularity 71

Posted by timothy
from the you-like-this dept.
An anonymous reader writes In a wide-ranging interview with IEEE Spectrum, Yann LeCun talks about his work at the Facebook AI Research group and the applications and limitations of deep learning and other AI techniques. He also talks about hype, 'cargo cult science', and what he dislikes about the Singularity movement. The discussion also includes brain-inspired processors, supervised vs. unsupervised learning, humanism, morality, and strange airplanes.
Medicine

Brain Imaging Shows Abnormal White Matter Areas In the Brains of Stutterers 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the bonus-smarts dept.
n01 writes: Stuttering — a speech disorder in which sounds, syllables or words are repeated or prolonged — affects more than 70 million people, or about 1% of the population, worldwide. Once treated as a psychological or emotional condition, stuttering can now be traced to brain neuroanatomy and physiology. Two new studies from UC Santa Barbara researchers provide insight into the treatment of the speech disorder as well as understanding its physiological basis. The first paper, published in the American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, finds that the MPI stuttering treatment program, a new treatment developed at UCSB, was twice as effective as the standard best practices protocol. The second study, which appears in the Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, uses diffusion spectrum imaging (DSI) in an MRI scanner to identify abnormal areas of white matter in the brains of adult stutterers. According to co-author Janis Ingham, a professor emerita of speech and hearing sciences at UCSB and co-author of both papers, the two studies taken together demonstrate two critical points: A neuroanatomic abnormality exists in the brains of people who stutter, yet they can learn to speak fluently in spite of it.
Earth

Humans' Big Brains Linked To a Small Stretch of DNA 95

Posted by timothy
from the can't-have-nuclear-bombs-without-big-brains dept.
A new study (abstract) described in the L.A. Times suggests that "just 10 differences on one particular strand of human DNA lying near a brain-development gene could have been instrumental in the explosive growth in the human neocortex." The DNA region, containing just 1,200 base pairs, is not a gene. But it lies near one that is known to affect early development of the human neocortex, according to the study, published online Thursday in Current Biology. Researchers showed that the region, known as HARE5, acts as an enhancer of the gene FZD8. Embryos of mice altered with human HARE5 developed significantly larger brains and more neurons compared with embryos carrying the chimp version, according to the study.
Graphics

Smart Rendering For Virtual Reality 24

Posted by Soulskill
from the works-way-better-than-dumb-rendering dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Intel have been working on new methods for improving the rendering speed for modern wide-angle head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. Their approach makes use of the fact that because of the relatively cheap and lightweight lenses the distortion astigmatism happens: only the center area can be perceived very sharp, while with increasing distance from it, the perception gets more and more blurred. So what happens if you don't spend the same amount of calculations and quality for all pixels? The blog entry gives hints to future rendering architectures and shows performance numbers.
Biotech

Human DNA Enlarges Mouse Brains 193

Posted by timothy
from the what-about-vice-versa dept.
sciencehabit writes Researchers have increased the size of mouse brains by giving the rodents a piece of human DNA that controls gene activity. The work provides some of the strongest genetic evidence yet for how the human intellect surpassed those of all other apes. The human gene causes cells that are destined to become nerve cells to divide more frequently, thereby providing a larger of pool of cells that become part of the cortex. As a result, the embryos carrying human HARE5 have brains that are 12% larger than the brains of mice carrying the chimp version of the enhancer. The team is currently testing these mice to see if the bigger brains made them any smarter.
Classic Games (Games)

When Chess Players Blunder 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the knight-to-sand-trap-6 dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Joe Doliner has done a statistical analysis of mistakes in rated chess games. He used a chess engine called Crafty, which is capable of not only finding mistakes, but quantifying how bad they are. After crunching all the matches on chessgames.com in 2014, which amounted to almost 5 million moves, Crafry found only 67,175 blunders that were equivalent to a 2-pawn deficit or worse. With a pair of graphs, Doliner shows how mistakes decrease as player rating increases, as you'd expect. According to the trendline, gaining 600 rating points roughly halves the number of mistakes a player makes. He made the data and tools available in a public repository for others to dig into.
Medicine

Inside the Mind of a Schizophrenic Through Virtual Reality 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the in-their-shoes dept.
blottsie writes Viscira produces videos and technology simulations for the healthcare industry, and the project I tested called "Mindscape" was created for a pharmaceutical company that wanted to give potential clients insight into what some schizophrenic patients might feel like in a real-life scenario. Unlike audio tests or videos that show you a first-person perspective of schizophrenic experiences, Viscira's demonstration uses the Oculus Rift headset and is entirely immersive. You can look around at each individual's face, and up and down the hallway. Walk through the elevator, and hear voices that appear to be coming from both strangers and your own head.
Science

Mood-Altering Wearable Thync Releases First Brain Test Data 69

Posted by samzenpus
from the make-me-happy dept.
blottsie writes Thync, the world's first wearable that alters a user's mood has released the first set of data that shows its device reduces stress without chemicals. The study found that "the levels of salivary -amylase, an enzyme that increases with stress, as well as noradrenergic and sympathetic activity, significantly dropped for the subjects that received electrical neurosignaling compared to the subjects that received the sham."
Education

Autism: Are Social Skills Groups and Social Communication Therapy Worthwhile? 289

Posted by timothy
from the let's-all-count-and-sort-batteries dept.
vortex2.71 (802986) writes I imagine that enough of us on Slashdot are on the Autism Spectrum or were once diagnosed as having Aspergers that this might be the right venue for this question. My son is on the spectrum, but is in a mainstream classroom at a private school. We have spent thousands of dollars on a bunch of different social skills groups, speech communication therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. We've found that the specific skills and intuition that the therapists possess is much more important than their credentials and are frequently disappointed by the overwhelming mediocrity of special education teachers, speech therapists, and OT/PT therapists. We are at the point where we wonder if our time is better spent with playdates with peers that are facilitated by us than continuing with the groups. I'm curious if there are adult Slashdoters who are on the spectrum who participated in these therapies as children who can weigh in on this? What was your experience with social skills groups and social communication therapy? Did they help?
AI

Google Brain's Co-inventor Tells Why He's Building Chinese Neural Networks 33

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-a-brain dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Here's an interview with Andrew Ng, former leader of Google Brain, discussing Baidu, Deep Learning, computer neural networks, and AI. An interesting excerpt from the interview on biological vs. computer neural networks: "A single 'neuron' in a neural network is an incredibly simple mathematical function that captures a minuscule fraction of the complexity of a biological neuron. So to say neural networks mimic the brain, that is true at the level of loose inspiration, but really artificial neural networks are nothing like what the biological brain does."
Medicine

Brain Implants Get Brainier 49

Posted by samzenpus
from the thinking-better dept.
the_newsbeagle writes "Did my head just beep?" wonders a woman who just received a brain implant to treat her intractable epilepsy. We're entering a cyborg age of medicine, with implanted stimulators that send pulses of electricity into the brain or nervous system to prevent seizures or block pain. The first generation of devices sent out pulses in a constant and invariable rhythm, but device-makers are now inventing smart stimulators that monitor the body for signs of trouble and fire when necessary.
Medicine

New Nicotine Vaccine May Succeed Where Others Have Failed 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the willpower-also-an-effective-vaccine dept.
Zothecula writes: If you're a smoker who's trying to quit, you may recall hearing about vaccines designed to cause the body's immune system to treat nicotine like a foreign invader, producing antibodies that trap and remove it before it's able to reach receptors in the brain. It's a fascinating idea, but according to scientists at California's Scripps Research Institute, a recent high-profile attempt had a major flaw. They claim to have overcome that problem (abstract), and are now developing a vaccine of their own that they believe should be more effective.
Medicine

Scientists Discover Compound In Baby Diapers Can Enlarge Brain Cells 75

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news of a breakthrough in brain imaging thanks to a compound found in diapers. "A team of researchers has discovered that a compound used in baby diapers to absorb the liquids can help enlarge the size of the brain cells for a better imaging. The scientists work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and were experimenting with new ways that could help them enlarge the brain cells for a better resolution photos. They discovered by accident that sodium polyacrylate, a compound in baby diapers can enlarge brain cells and can be used in their research. The scientists termed the new technique of enlarging the brain cells 'expansion microscopy.' This new technique will help the scientists increase the brain cells tissue samples and see it in a better image resolution."
Science

Why Some Teams Are Smarter Than Others 219

Posted by timothy
from the so-more-emoticons-then? dept.
HughPickens.com writes Everyone who is part of an organization — a company, a nonprofit, a condo board — has experienced the pathologies that can occur when human beings try to work together in groups. Now the NYT reports on recent research on why some groups, like some people, are reliably smarter than others. In one study, researchers grouped 697 volunteer participants into teams of two to five members. Each team worked together to complete a series of short tasks, which were selected to represent the varied kinds of problems that groups are called upon to solve in the real world. One task involved logical analysis, another brainstorming; others emphasized coordination, planning and moral reasoning. Teams with higher average I.Q.s didn't score much higher on collective intelligence tasks than did teams with lower average I.Q.s. Nor did teams with more extroverted people, or teams whose members reported feeling more motivated to contribute to their group's success. Instead, the smartest teams were distinguished by three characteristics (PDF). First, their members contributed more equally to the team's discussions, rather than letting one or two people dominate the group. Second, their members scored higher on a test called Reading the Mind in the Eyes, which measures how well people can read complex emotional states from images of faces with only the eyes visible. Finally, teams with more women outperformed teams with more men. It appeared that it was not "diversity" (having equal numbers of men and women) that mattered for a team's intelligence, but simply having more women. This last effect, however, was partly explained by the fact that women, on average, were better at "mindreading" than men.

Interestingly enough, a second study has now replicated the these findings for teams that worked together online communicating purely by typing messages into a browser . "Emotion-reading mattered just as much for the online teams whose members could not see one another as for the teams that worked face to face. What makes teams smart must be not just the ability to read facial expressions, but a more general ability, known as "Theory of Mind," to consider and keep track of what other people feel, know and believe."
Biotech

Hibernation Protein May Halt Alzheimer's 79

Posted by timothy
from the all-ideas-welcome dept.
BarbaraHudson writes The BBC is reporting that tests show a protein called RBM3, involved in hibernation, may hold the key to regenerating synapses. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative disorders, synapses are lost. This inevitably progresses to whole brain cells dying. But during hibernation, 20-30% of the connections in the brain — synapses — are culled as the body preserves resources over winter, and are reformed in the spring, with no loss of memory. Memories can be restored after hibernation as only the receiving end of the synapse shuts down. In a further set of tests, the team showed the brain cell deaths from prion disease and Alzheimer's could be prevented by artificially boosting RBM3 levels. Prof Mallucci was asked if memories could be restored in people if their synapses could be restored: "Absolutely, because a lot of memory decline is correlated with synapse loss, which is the early stage of dementia, so you might get back some of the synapse you've lost."

Further reading: here, here, and here"
United Kingdom

Winston Churchill's Scientists 77

Posted by timothy
from the they-never-never-never-gave-up dept.
HughPickens.com writes Nicola Davis writes at The Guardian that a new exhibition at London's Science Museum tiitled Churchill's Scientists aims to explore how a climate that mingled necessity with ambition spurred British scientists to forge ahead in fields as diverse as drug-discovery and operational research, paving the way for a further flurry of postwar progress in disciplines from neurology to radio astronomy. Churchill "was very unusual in that he was a politician from a grand Victorian family who was also interested in new technology and science," says Andrew Nahum. "That was quite remarkable at the time." An avid reader of Charles Darwin and HG Wells, Churchill also wrote science-inspired articles himself and fostered an environment where the brightest scientists could build ground-breaking machines, such as the Bernard Lovell telescope, and make world-changing discoveries, in molecular genetics, radio astronomy, nuclear power, nerve and brain function and robotics. "During the war the question was never, 'How much will it cost?' It was, 'Can we do it and how soon can we have it?' This left a heritage of extreme ambition and a lot of talented people who were keen to see what it could provide." (More, below.)
Crime

Innocent Adults Are Easy To Convince They Committed a Serious Crime 291

Posted by timothy
from the well-you-did-you-know dept.
binarstu (720435) writes "Research recently published [link is to abstract only; full text requires subscription] in Psychological Science quantifies how easy it is to convince innocent, "normal" adults that they committed a crime. The Association for Psychological Science (APS) has posted a nice summary of the research. From the APS summary: "Evidence from some wrongful-conviction cases suggests that suspects can be questioned in ways that lead them to falsely believe in and confess to committing crimes they didn't actually commit. New research provides lab-based evidence for this phenomenon, showing that innocent adult participants can be convinced, over the course of a few hours, that they had perpetrated crimes as serious as assault with a weapon in their teenage years."