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Comment People have a crude form of telepathy. (Score 1) 98

Not actual radio-like telepathy like in sci-fi stories, but an inbuilt capacity to actually experience what our brains think other people are experiencing.

One of the classic experiments like this is to get a subject wearing goggles to identify with a mannequin. Of course this is artificially induced; we didn't evolve in a world with 3D goggles and cameras. But there is a condition called "mirror-touch synesthesia" in which this occurs naturally, in which people spontaneously experience what someone else is experiencing.

The parallel element I see is the brain somehow generates a sensation without an appropriate physical input, and the phenomenon of mirror touch synesthesia suggests to me this isn't just a curious bug in our brain architecture. The 1.6% of people who report spontaneous mirror synesthesia also score higher than the general population on measures of empathy. I suspect it may also be linked in some way to our ability to learn by copying what others do.

This is a really exciting time in neuroscience, and synesthesia seems like an interesting target for DIY brain hackers. Mirror-type synesthesia particularly so because it's easy to induce. The rubber hand illusion is probably the easiest dramatic effect to produce at home.

Comment Re:Potential military applications are really scar (Score 3, Funny) 76

George Washington and his patriot army had mad ninja skillz.

They did. The old story goes that Ethan Allen was brought back to England as a prisoner in the Revolutionary War, he was housed with a English merchant who to goad the patriot put a picture of George Washington up in the outhouse. Much to the merchant's chagrin, Allen approved. "Nothing," Allen said, "will make an Englishman shit faster than the sight of George Washington."

Comment Re:This story sponsored by (Score 1) 92

Well, the answer might be to try a morning cup of decaf coffee. Why? Because caffeine isn't the only active ingredient in coffee; the anti-cancer properties of coffee appear to be in the phenols which are still present in decaf. And you'd still get the stimulant benefits of caffeine because you're more sensitive, although I'd avoid even decaf after noon.

A cup of decaf coffee has between 2-10 mg of caffeine depending on the process; an ounce of dark chocolate has about 20 mg of caffeine; a twelve once coke has 34 mg of caffeine; a cup of regular coffee has 90-200 mg of caffeine.

Comment Re:This story sponsored by (Score 1) 92

Actually evidence from the 1950s was mixed -- as it still is -- but in fact most of it stands up pretty well. What's a problem is the interpretation of that evidence and its limited nature (e.g. not knowing about different types of cholesterol).

For example it was established in the 50s that high blood cholesterol was a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. This is still believed as true, but what they didn't know at the time is what factors affected blood cholesterol. It was (plausibly although not conclusively) suspected by many that fat consumption would increase it; nobody suspected sugar... why should they?

In complex systems like the body there is usually conflicting evidence early on, which is resolved by further study.

Comment Re:Potential military applications are really scar (Score 5, Interesting) 76

I'd think from a military standpoint what you want is soldiers who make better battlefield decisions, not ones that engage in a stereotypical behavior regardless of circumstance.

The human brain is both massively adaptable and subject to modification by information inputs. Which means you can indoctrinate men into becoming mindless killing machines. The problem is that historically that approach doesn't seem to be effective either tactically or strategically. US Marines faced waves of suicide attackers in the Pacific theater of WW2, which must have been terrifying, but in the end worked to the US advantage.

On the other hand George Washington's great talent as a general was retreating. He could attack a much larger and better equipped army and then make his army disappear before they could react. That was terrifying in its own way, and much more miltarily effective.

Given a fight between men fighting to kill and men fighting to survive, all other things being equal I'd put my money on the men trying to survive.

Comment Re:This story sponsored by (Score 5, Informative) 92

You know, this kind of shallow cynicism actually makes you easier to dupe, because it's not evidence-based; it's what-sounds-truthy-based.

This article was published in Nature, which requires a complete disclosure of institutional affiliations and financial conflicts. That doesn't mean the system is perfect, but it's about as good as it gets, especially given that Nature is one of the most prestigious scientific journals in the world. Nature Medicine has an eye-popping 30.357 impact factor, making it the fourth most highly cited medical journal in the world after the New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, and Journal of the American Medical Association.

Does it mean you should immediately believe anything that's published in Nature Medicine? No. You should wait until it is cited in a literature review article in one of those top journals before making any health decisions based on it. However as individual papers go, this is as credible as they get.

Researchers have been trying to take caffeine down for decades. Nobody can quite believe that something so enjoyable as coffee isn't bad for you. In fact doctors used to routinely warn their patients off coffee because of all the bad things it would do to them, but in fact when researchers tried to confirm all the things doctors knew about why coffee was bad for you, none of them turned out to be true, with narrow exceptions for certain populations (e.g., coffee doesn't cause ulcers as we used to be told, but if you have an ulcer coffee will make the symptoms worse).

What researchers found were surprising benefits, including what appears to be evidence of reduction in risks for multiple forms of cancer and even a reduction in suicide risk.

Coffee is well on its way to becoming the first evidence-backed superfood.

Comment Re:Can only be played on Apple products (Score 2) 84

Everyone wants to own both the distribution channel and the content being sold over that channel. Netflix, Amazon, Hulu...

They all want their own programming so that going to a different store means losing access to content. If Apple's content does appear on Netflix, you can be sure of two things: (1) it'll be old episodes and (2) their programs will include melodramatic, never-ending story arcs.

Comment Re:Emergency response (Score 1) 138

The flying car, as it could be made with today's technology, is just a novel alternative to a helicopter, as you point out (or perhaps a "roadable aircraft"). They'll suffer from all the same problems of the aircraft that people aren't already using, including the cost to own and run one.

But most people don't think of it that way. Most people think of the flying car as a poorly thought out idea from a cartoon. It'll be just like a regular car except you can get away from traffic by moving up or down! It would solve the problem of traffic congestion!

Unfortunately this idea is so far from attainable with today's technology that nobody alive today will live to see it. They'll need Star Trek batteries to carry a large amount of affordable power running affordable motors, first and foremost. The average person is already struggling to buy and run a small number of relatively very pedestrian combustion engines, they can't afford anything that has multiple exotic forms of the damn things ferociously guzzling precious fuel.

Comment Vocational training for young kids is a waste. (Score 5, Insightful) 195

Who knows what jobs will be available in twenty years, between AI and offshoring? Coding doesn't look like a sure thing at all.

If you are going to focus on a skill, focus on ones that serve in that kind of future environment: being able to pick up on human context and nuance; to decode, no just the literal level of communication, but implicit levels of communication. Because even if AI and foreigners take our coding jobs, somebody is going to have to lay out specifications, and that take imagination and subtlety.

And you know what would be really, really good for developing those kinds of skills? Reading and discussing books.

Comment Re:don't be too quick to judge (Score 1) 293

yes India has terrible controls on their antibiotic use, but remember that US farmers are using large amounts of antibiotics too keep their overcrowded livestock from dying too soon.

India is a country with a median annual income of $616. With 1.2 billion people, well, a lot of things like providing medical care are going to be tough. We're headed that way too. While per capita GDP growth has recovered from the Great Recession, median income has declined.

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