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Submission + - Snortable Drug Keeps Monkeys Awake

sporkme writes: A DARPA-funded research project at UCLA has wrapped up a set of animal trials testing the effects of inhalation of the brain chemical orexin A, a deficiency of which is a characteristic of narcolepsy. From the article:

The monkeys were deprived of sleep for 30 to 36 hours and then given either orexin A or a saline placebo before taking standard cognitive tests. The monkeys given orexin A in a nasal spray scored about the same as alert monkeys, while the saline-control group was severely impaired. The study, published in the Dec. 26 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience, found orexin A not only restored monkeys' cognitive abilities but made their brains look "awake" in PET scans. Siegel said that orexin A is unique in that it only had an impact on sleepy monkeys, not alert ones, and that it is "specific in reversing the effects of sleepiness" without other impacts on the brain.
Researchers seem cautious to bill the treatment as a replacement for sleep, as it is not clear that adjusting brain chemistry could have the same physical benefits of real sleep in the long run. The drug is aimed at replacing amphetamines used by drowsy long-haul military pilots, but there would no doubt be large demand for such a remedy thanks to its apparent lack of side-effects.

Submission + - The Curse of the Algorithm

An anonymous reader writes: A short essay on why parallel programming is so hard and on how to fix the problem. Excerpted from Parallel Programming, Math and the Curse of the Algorithm:

Adding more processing cores to a CPU should have been a relatively painless evolution of computer technology but it turned out to be a real pain in the ass, programming wise. Why? To understand the problem, we must go back to the very beginning of the computer age, close to a hundred and fifty years ago, when an Englishman named Charles Babbage designed the world's first general purpose computer, the analytical engine. Babbage was a mathematician and like most mathematicians of his day, he longed for a time when he would be freed from the tedium of performing long calculation sequences. All he wanted was a reasonably fast calculator that could reliably execute mathematical sequences or algorithms. The idea of using a single fast central processor to emulate the behaviors of multiple small parallel processors was the furthest thing from his mind. Indeed, the very first program written for the analytical engine by Babbage's friend and fellow mathematician, Lady Ada Lovelace, was a table of instructions meant to calculate the Bernoulli numbers, a sequence of rational numbers. Neither Babbage nor Lady Ada should be faulted for this but current modern computers are still based on Babbage's sequential model. Is it any wonder that the computer industry is having such a hard time making the transition from sequential to parallel computing?

Where Do the Laws of Nature Come From? 729

mlimber writes "The NYTimes science section has up an interesting article discussing the nature of scientific laws. It comes partly in reply to physicist Paul Davies, whose recent op-ed in same paper lit up the blogosphere and solicited flurry of reader responses to the editorial page. It asks, 'Are [laws of nature] merely fancy bookkeeping, a way of organizing facts about the world? Do they govern nature or just describe it? And does it matter that we don't know and that most scientists don't seem to know or care where they come from?' The current article proceeds to survey different views on the matter. The author seems to be poking fun at himself by quoting Richard Feynman's epigram, 'Philosophy of science is about as useful to scientists as ornithology is to birds.'"
It's funny.  Laugh.

Submission + - Human Cerebellum Explained in the Bible? (blogspot.com)

An anonymous reader writes: From the article:

According to my interpretation of the Biblical texts, the cerebellum is a supervised automaton. It is trained by the motor cortex to take over certain routine motor tasks whenever the basal ganglia and motor cortex are busy reasoning internally or engaging in some other motor activity. My understanding of the metaphorical messages to the church of Pergamum (Broca's area) and Laodicea (cerebellum) in the book of Revelation is that speech is always an attentional or volitional (as opposed to automatic) process that involves corrective feedback from the basal ganglia. The cerebellum is not directly involved in processing speech and language. The indication is that the cerebellum can have motor control over the entire body except the mouth, throat and tongue muscles. This means that activities like eating, chewing and swallowing are also excluded from cerebellar control.


Submission + - Activision Sued over Guitar Hero....again (wired.com)

Zalbik writes: It seems that Activision's legal battles over the latest edition of the Guitar Hero franchise are not over yet. Having been sued previously over the inclusion of a song cover that sounds too much like the original, they are now being subject to a class action suit due to the fact that the Wii edition of the game only outputs mono sound, despite packaging claims to the contrary.

Apparently their offer to replace any defective discs free of charge isn't enough for some people, so Samuel Livingston of San Diego (represented by the law firm KamberEdelson, LLC) has filed a class action suit over this issue. previously covered lawsuits over the latest edition of the Guitar Hero franchise.

Social Networks

Submission + - Family Sues MySpace after Teen Suicide (dailytech.com)

Anonymous Cow writes: By now just about everyone has heard the story of the teenager who hanged herself after receiving nasty messages on her MySpace from a parent posing as a teenage boy. In June 2006 another teenage girl committed suicide after being sexually assaulted by a man she met on MySpace. DailyTech reports the family of the assaulted suicide victim is suing MySpace, claiming the site knew about prior sexual assaults by predators using the site and failed to implement security measures to prevent assaults from happening again.
Operating Systems

Submission + - Make Your Own OS With MikeOS

ADenyer writes: Want to write your own OS? Fancy trying your hand at x86 assembly language? MikeOS is an open source x86 operating system, designed to show you how a simple OS fits together. Yes, it's 16-bit (for BIOS access), but it's small enough to avoid the old-school DOS memory segment woes, and includes a very thorough HandBook with a guide to writing your first OS kernel. The new 1.1 release includes build scripts for Mac OS X and Windows.

Submission + - Ethanol Under Siege

Reservoir Hill writes: "Little over a year ago, ethanol was winning the hearts and wallets of both Main Street and Wall Street, with promises of greater US energy independence, fewer greenhouse gases and help for the farm economy. But the Wall Street Journal reports that critics now blame ethanol for pushing up food prices and dispute how much it really helps reduce the need for oil while environmentalists say additional ethanol production could strain water supplies and impair water quality and the EPA says that "ozone levels generally increase with increased ethanol use." President Bush gave ethanol a boost in his State of the Union speech in 2005 by calling for "strong funding" of renewable energy. Energy legislation that summer required oil companies to blend a total of 7.5 billion gallons of "renewable" fuels into the nation's fuel supply by 2012. Now the ethanol lobby is pushing for the Senate version of pending energy legislation, which includes a requirement that gasoline blenders use 36 billion gallons of renewable fuels by 2022 but formidable opponents such as the livestock, packaged-food and oil industries also have lawmakers' ears and what once looked like a slam-dunk could now languish in pending energy legislation that might not pass for weeks, if ever."

Submission + - Utah Cop Tases Man for Speeding

An anonymous reader writes: It's a disturbing trend lately. People are getting tased by cops for just about every infraction imaginable. We're all familiar with most of them, as they have made their way to YouTube, but a recent incident in Utah is especially disturbing. Not only was the man tased for a trivial "crime" (speeding), but the officer in question also refused to read him his rights as he was arresting him, despite being asked repeatedly to do so. From the article:

The victim of police brutality was a motorist named Jared Massey. Mr. Massey was pulled over on a Utah highway for allegedly speeding. When Mr. Massey asked the officer why he was being pulled over, and then to help him understand why he was accused of speeding before he signed the ticket, the officer ordered him to exit the vehicle. Mr. Massey was then asked to turn around and put his hands behind his back. Mr. Massey began walking back towards the car, obviously confused as to why he was being ordered to put his hands behind his back, and less than 10 seconds later was tased.
A video of the incident is available, from the records of the police vehicle.

Submission + - Someone getting Hybrids right (cnn.com)

dragonsomnolent writes: A company by the name of H-Line conversions in Wichita, Kansas is converting cars to hybrids by ripping out their standard engines, and replacing them with a setup slightly reminiscent of a modern diesel locomotive. He puts in an electric motor powered by batteries, which are in turn charged by a bio-diesel generator. His client list includes Niel Young and Arnold Schwarzenneger, but at a cost of $40,000, it might take a while for this to get to the masses.

Submission + - 10 reasons why HP revenues hit $100 billion

Stony Stevenson writes: Hewlett-Packard's 2007 annual revenues shot past the $100 billion mark for the first time with sales reaching $104.3 billion for the year ending 31 October. itNews is running an article detailing 10 factors that helped make HP a $100 billion baby. Number one surprisingly comes out as: Hiring Carly Fiorina as CEO. Others include: "Making products that don't burst into flames", and "Buying Hot Companies".

Submission + - Why Dogs Can't Play Chess? No Spirit (blogspot.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Atheists and believers, take notice. This author argues that human memory is biologically implausible. From the article:

The Magical Human Brain

Unlike a computer, the brain does not have the ability to instantly scan a random series of locations in its memory. To do so would require that every memory location be connected to every other location, which is clearly not the case, biologically speaking. Alternatively, it would require an address bus, a data bus, a memory controller and RAM, much like a computer. This is not the case either. Human memory does have a random access capability but it is extremely slow compared to a computer: the axon of a neuron must grow until it physically establishes a synaptic connection. And yet, amazingly, human memory acts as if it does have instant random access capability. For example, we can instantly record (memorize) any short sequence of random musical notes and instantly recite it with no trouble even if we have never heard or used that sequence before. How can this be? How does the brain instantly record a random sequence of events that it has never encountered before and play it back in the same order?

The act of recording a sequence of events presupposes the existence of a recording medium. The only biologically plausible way to record and play back a sequence of events is to use a control neuron that is physically connected to all the neurons that represent the events in the sequence. One can imagine using synaptic strengths to encode the delays and a steady oscillatory firing of the control neuron to trigger each node at its assigned time. One can even imagine using a faster or slower oscillation frequency to play the sequence under different tempos. The point I am driving at is that, in order for the human brain to be able to instantly record and play back short random melodies, it would need a pre-wired network of all such possible sequences to serve as a universal medium. This is an extremely huge number even if we limit the melodies to seven notes each, the capacity of human short-term memory. If we include all the other possible event sequences that human memory can instantly record, the number becomes astronomical. There is no evidence for the existence of such an immense pre-wired network. In fact, the evidence is that much of the wiring of the brain occurs during learning. Is the brain using some kind of magic to do its amazing tricks? The answer depends on what one calls magic. I call it something else. I call it the spirit.

In part II, I will expand on the spirit theme and go over the real reason that dogs can't play chess.


Submission + - should-silence-some-critics (bbc.co.uk)

lstellar writes: "Crucially, it could mean that such research is no longer dependent on using cells from human embryos, which has proved highly controversial...The cells created were similar, but not identical, to embryonic stem cells, and the researchers used them to produce brain and heart tissue." Gives us hope. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7101834.stm

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Machines certainly can solve problems, store information, correlate, and play games -- but not with pleasure. -- Leo Rosten