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Medicine

The Neuroscience of Happiness 136

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Julie Beck has an interesting read in the Atlantic about how our brains are naturally wired to focus on the negative because evolution has optimized our brains for survival, but not necessarily happiness, which means that we feel stressed and unhappy even though there are a lot of positive things in our lives. 'The problem is that the brain is very good at building brain structure from negative experiences,' says neuropsychologist Dr. Rick Hanson. 'We learn immediately from pain—you know, "once burned, twice shy." As our ancestors evolved, they needed to pass on their genes. And day-to-day threats like predators or natural hazards had more urgency and impact for survival. On the other hand, positive experiences like food, shelter, or mating opportunities, those are good, but if you fail to have one of those good experiences today, as an animal, you would have a chance at one tomorrow. But the brain is relatively poor at turning positive experiences into emotional learning neural structure. 'Positive thinking by definition is conceptual and generally verbal and most conceptual or verbal material doesn't have a lot of impact on how we actually feel or function over the course of the day. A lot of people have this kind of positive, look on the bright side yappity yap, but deep down they're very frightened, angry, sad, disappointed, hurt, or lonely.' Dr. Hanson proposes several ideas for helping 're-wire' our brains for happiness. One of them is that we need to learn how to move positive experiences from short-term buffers to long-term storage. 'But to move from a short-term buffer to long-term storage, an experience needs to be held in that short-term buffer long enough for it to transfer to long-term storage,' says Hanson. 'When people are having positive thinking or even most positive experiences, the person is not taking the extra 10, 20 seconds to heighten the installation into neural structure. So it's not just positive thinking that's wasted on the brain; it's most positive experiences that are wasted on the brain.'"
Transportation

Autonomous Cars Will Save Money and Lives 389

cartechboy writes "Autonomous cars are coming even if tech companies have to produce them. The biggest hurdles are the technology (very expensive and often still surprisingly rudimentary) and how vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication happens (one car anticipates or sees an accident, it should tell nearby cars). So what are the benefits to self-driving cars? They may save us thousands of lives and not a small amount of cash. A new study from the Eno Center for Transportation (PDF) suggests that if just 10 percent of vehicles on the road were autonomous, the U.S. could see 1,000 fewer highway fatalities annually and save $38 billion in lost productivity (due to congestion and other traffic problems). Right off the bat you can imagine autonomous driving easily topping your average intoxicated drivers' ability behind the wheel. At a 90 percent adoption mark those same numbers in theory would become: 21,700 lives spared, and a whopping $447 billion saved."
Medicine

Fighting Paralysis With Electricity 56

the_newsbeagle writes "In spinal cord injuries, the brain's commands can't reach the lower body — so in a ground-breaking experiment at the University of Louisville, researchers are providing artificial commands via electrodes implanted in the spine. The first paralyzed people to try out the tech have already been able to stand on their own, and have regained some bowel and sexual function. A video that accompanies the article also shows paralyzed rats that were able to walk again with this kind of electrical stimulation."
The Almighty Buck

Knight Capital Fined $12M For a Software Bug That Cost $460M 192

Mark Gibbs writes "Knight Capital monumentally fouled up a software update. According to the SEC, 'Knight did not have supervisory procedures to guide its relevant personnel when significant issues developed.' In other words, not only was Knight's code management inadequate but their human management processes were just as bad. The fine for what could have been a biblical financial disaster? A measly $12 million."
United States

DARPA Issues $2mil Cyber Grand Challenge 67

First time accepted submitter Papa Fett writes "DARPA announced the Cyber Grand Challenge (CGC)--the first-ever tournament for fully automatic network defense systems. International teams will compete to build systems that reason about software flaws, formulate patches and deploy them on a network in real time. Teams would be scored against each other based on how capably their systems can protect hosts, scan the network for vulnerabilities, and maintain the correct function of software. The winning team would receive a cash prize of $2 million , with second place earning $1 million and third place taking home $750,000." Also at Slashcloud.
Security

The Cybersecurity Industry Is Hiring, But Young People Aren't Interested 289

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Cybersecurity, as an industry, is booming. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs as network systems and information security professionals are expected to grow by 53 percent through 2018. Yet, young people today aren't interested in getting jobs in cybersecurity. By all accounts it's a growing and potentially secure, lucrative job. But according to a new survey by the defense tech company Raytheon, only 24 percent of millennials have any interest in cybersecurity as a career."
Power

Researchers Tout Electricity Storage Tech That Could Recharge Devices In Minutes 31

coondoggie writes "Vanderbilt University researchers say they have come up with a way to store electricity on a silicon-based supercapacitor that would let mobile phones recharge in seconds and let them continue to operate for weeks without recharging. The Vanderbilt team said they used porous silicon -- a material with a controllable and well-defined nanostructure made by electrochemically etching the surface of a silicon wafer. This let them create surfaces with optimal nanostructures for supercapacitor electrodes, but it left them with a major problem: Silicon is generally considered unsuitable for use in supercapacitors because it reacts readily with some of chemicals in the electrolytes that provide the ions that store the electrical charge, the researchers said."
Science

Dolphins' Hunting Technique Inspires New Radar Device 79

minty3 writes "The twin inverted pulse radar (TWIPR) made by a team from the University of Southampton in England uses the same technique dolphins do to capture prey. Like dolphins, the device sends out two pulses in quick succession to cancel out background noise. The findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical and Physical Sciences, explained how the device resembles the way dolphins send out two pulses in quick succession to cancel out background noise."
Technology

New Goggles Offer Minority Report-Style Interface With Heads-Up Display 67

Lucas123 writes "A Taiwanese non-profit R&D organization is demonstrating a new heads-up type display that allows users to interact with the floating virtual screens using finger swipes. The new i-Air Touch technology from the Industrial Technology Research Institute is being developed for an array of devices, including PCs, wearable computers and mobile devices. The technology allows a user's hand to be free of any physical device such as a touchpad or keyboard for touch input. ITRI plans to license the patented technology to manufacturers. The company sees the technology being used in not only consumer arenas (video), but also for medical applications such as endoscopic surgery and any industrial applications that benefit from hands-free input."
The Internet

Top US Lobbyist Wants Broadband Data Caps 568

sl4shd0rk writes "Michael Powell, A former United States FCC chairman, is pushing for 'usage-based internet access' which he says is good for consumers who are 'accustomed to paying for what they use'. Apparently Time Warner and Comcast (maybe others) are already developing plans to set monthly rates based on bandwidth usage. The reasoning on the NCTA website lays out the argument behind Powell's plan."

Submission + - Book Review: The App Generation

Sara Konrath writes: Review of The App Generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world, by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis

I recently saw my 17-year old cousin for the first time in two years. The interactions that we had that weekend were perplexing. Emma and I are Facebook friends and we occasionally chat online, but it had been a long time since we had seen each other in person. Although she stood comfortably close to me in the kitchen the first morning, she had her eyes on her smartphone the whole time. She wasn’t avoiding me or being antisocial – instead she was finding funny off-color jokes or pictures online, laughing out loud, and then sharing them with me. In my foggy caffeine-deprived state, it took me awhile to realize that this was Emma’s way of connecting. We share a similar sick sense of humor, and I appreciated the jokes, but there was something a bit odd about our interaction: it could have just as easily occurred online. There was no eye contact or even conversation, just what we psychologists call "joint attention," which is when two people focus on the same object together. Joint attention is an important social and relational skill. It emerges within the first year of life and is impaired in individuals with social deficits, such as autism. But it is just a foundation for more intimate social contact – that which connects us directly to each other (rather than indirectly via an object).

That same weekend, I happened to be reading The App Generation (Yale University Press, October 2013), which gives an overview of how digital media and technology may affect young people’s perceptions of themselves, their ability to relate to others, and their creativity. As the director of the Interdisciplinary Program on Empathy and Altruism Research (iPEAR), my research finds that there have been generational changes in personality traits related to social functioning. For example, we find that narcissism has been rising while dispositional empathy has been declining in recent generations. I also study the relationship between such traits and the use of social media. Considering this, I was excited to get a copy of the book ahead of its release date.

The book does a good job of outlining the latest research on the topic of how digital technology and media have changed fundamental aspects of the way young people relate to themselves and others. Considering that the authors are academics, I commend them for adopting an everyday conversational style, although at times this comes across as awkward. The book title is not quite right, since it’s really about the broader topic of how new technology and media affect us, unfortunately forcing the authors to squeeze in the app metaphor whenever possible to make the title work. The larger point of the book is that it is easy to become "app-dependent," allowing ourselves to be controlled and limited by technology, rather than "app-enabled," using it to reach our highest potential selves – to creativity connect and engage with ideas and other people. The historical examples from other times of technological change are amusing, and provide an interesting context for their discussion.

Howard and Katie (as they call themselves in the book) argue that the new media landscape indeed affects the way young people see themselves, or at least present themselves – what they call identity. In the early days of the internet, there was a feeling that one could go online and be someone else. With chat rooms and multiplayer role play games (and their customizable avatars), the internet allowed people to safely play with their identities and perhaps discover new aspects of themselves. Sherry Turkle, covered this topic quite early (1995) in her book, Life on the Screen: Identity in the age of the internet, and The App Generation gives her an appreciative nod. But the authors suggest that although this type of identity play still occurs, it is more common for young people to use social media to be "themselves, only better," considering that social networking sites often use people’s real names.

In terms of intimacy, Howard and Katie cite much research (including my own) finding that young people today may have more difficulty deeply connecting with others than those in past generations. The "odd" interaction between myself and Emma are apparently quite normal among teens and young adults, and the authors suggest that new media might be in part to blame for such changes in social interactions. Again, a book by Sherry Turkle (Alone Together: Why we expect more from technology and less from each other) has both preceded them and gone into more satisfying depth on the topic. The problem Howard and Katie acknowledge is that it is hard to conduct experimental studies, the gold standard for making causal claims. Yet I wish the authors would have discussed the vast amount of research on the effects of other media (e.g. television, violent video games), which has grappled with these problems for decades and has come up with some solutions.

The most novel and interesting part of the book, which alone makes it worth reading, is the chapter on creativity (which they self-consciously label imagination, in order to have three neat "Is" in the subtitle). This chapter is refreshingly different from the others, partly because the authors draw on their own research expertise here, rather than simply providing a cursory review of others’ work. But here again, the discussion is too brief and superficial, as if the book is intended to be read on a screen. Still, I was intrigued by their finding that while the visual art of young people seems to be increasing in creativity and complexity in recent years, their written work shows marked declines in the same domains. This reminded me of Leonard Shlain’s book, The Alphabet versus the Goddess, which posited that there would be a rise in the dominance visual images (which he sees as signifying feminine preeminence) over the written word (signifying masculine hierarchical systems of power).

Overall, The App Generation seems to be packaged directly to the "app generation," in its tendency to skim across facts rather than using them as a starting point for further analysis. But despite my criticisms, I still enjoyed reading it and it made me think more about how such technologies could be designed to help enhance social relationships rather than diminish them. My criticisms come partly from my experience studying this topic, and what seems like a criticism could actually be a strength for more novice readers. The book accurately gives an overview of scientific research on this topic, and with all of the electronic research tools available in recent years, it is up to the reader to "google it" if they want to go deeper.

Bio: Sara Konrath is an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan. Email: skonrath.at.umich.dot.edu
United States

NSA Director Keith Alexander Is Reportedly Stepping Down 92

Daniel_Stuckey writes "Keith Alexander will step down by April or May of next year. What's more, the agency's deputy director Chris Inglis also plans to retire by the end of next year, anonymous US officials told Reuters today. Though the news comes in the midst of a global public backlash over the NSA's widespread surveillance programs, it's worth pointing out that Alexander had revealed his plans to retire before Edward Snowden leaked details of PRISM in June. Officials didn't give a reason for his departure."
Privacy

Oakland Is Building a Big Data Center For Police Surveillance 92

rjmarvin writes "$7 million in federal grant money originally tasked with terrorism prevention is now being used to fund construction of a new data center in Oakland to electronically gather and analyze data around the clock from a variety of sensors and databases, displaying selected info on a bank of giant monitors. The center will mine massive data streams, helping the police department tap into 911 calls, port and traffic cameras, license plate readers, gunshot sensors, social media posts and commuters' electronic toll payments."
Robotics

How To Attend Next Week's Robotics Show Robotically 38

DeviceGuru writes "Suitable Technologies is offering $50 rentals of its Beam mobile telepresence robot, allowing 50 robotics enthusiasts to remotely attend the RoboBusiness conference in Santa Clara, Calif. on Oct. 23-25. The Ubuntu- and ROS-based Beam will be available to the first 50 applicants, letting them explore the show at up to 1.5 meters/sec and interact with others via video conferencing. The bots will be allowed everywhere on the show floor as well as in conference rooms, and the show will be open late to accommodate remote users from distant time zones. The Beam is a good choice for remotely exploring conferences, saving users the cost and time of traveling to an event, says Suitable Tech; for example, RoboBusiness registration costs $1,595, not including hotel and travel. A list of the conference's keynotes, which include one by Christ Urmson, director of Google's Self-Driving Cars project, is available here."
Mars

Curiosity Confirms Origins of Martian Meteorites 35

littlesparkvt writes "Earth's most eminent emissary to Mars has just proven that those rare Martian visitors that sometimes drop in on Earth — a.k.a. Martian meteorites — really are from the Red Planet. A key new measurement of Mars' atmosphere by NASA's Curiosity rover provides the most definitive evidence yet of the origins of Mars meteorites while at the same time providing a way to rule out Martian origins of other meteorites."

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