What Does a Thought Look Like? (And Other Amazing Stuff)

Phil and Stephen review amazing news indicating that the future is closer than we think.

 

Neuroscientists Have Followed a Thought as it Moves Through the Brain

A study using epilepsy patients undergoing surgery has given neuroscientists an opportunity to track in unprecedented detail the movement of a thought through the human brain, all the way from inspiration to response.

The findings confirm the role of the prefrontal cortex as the coordinator of complex interactions between different regions, linking our perception with action and serving as what can be considered the “glue of cognition”.

 

Blood test can detect eight cancers in early stages which could save half a million lives every year

CancerSEEK is a blood test that detects tiny amounts of DNA and proteins released into the bloodstream from cancer cells. This can then indicate the presence of ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, oesophageal, bowel, lung or breast cancers.

Known as a liquid biopsy, the test is distinctly different to a standard biopsy, where a needle is put into a solid tumor to confirm a cancer diagnosis. CancerSEEK, is also far less invasive. It can be performed without even knowing a cancer is present, and therefore allow for early diagnosis and more chance of a cure.

Along with cancer detection, the blood test accurately predicted what type of cancer it was in 83 percent of cases.

 

The world’s most powerful acoustic tractor beam could pave the way for levitating humans

Acoustic tractor beams use the power of sound to hold particles in mid-air, and unlike magnetic levitation, they can grab most solids or liquids. For the first time University of Bristol engineers have shown it is possible to stably trap objects larger than the wavelength of sound in an acoustic tractor beam. This discovery opens the door to the manipulation of drug capsules or micro-surgical implements within the body. Container-less transportation of delicate larger samples is now also a possibility and could lead to levitating humans.

 

3D printers could let you produce your own drugs

researchers at the University of Glasgow have unveiled a new process of building “reactionware,” or small reactors that can produce drugs, using a $2,000 off-the-shelf 3D printer, Science reports. The new process makes it possible for anyone to fabricate drugs, allowing doctors in developing nations to quickly produce medicines to curtail outbreaks, or even let you produce your own ibuprofen at home.

The process sounds fairly simple when you describe it, but it took the researchers nearly six years to get to this point. Using the 3D printer, the team built various water-bottle sized vessels that can carry out four different chemical reactions in 12 steps, including filter and evaporation. These essentially become miniature reaction factories, allowing pharmacists or doctors to create specific drugs by adding solvents and reagents at specific times in the process.

 

Machines Teaching Each Other Could Be the Biggest Exponential Trend in AI

During an October 2015 press conference announcing the autopilot feature of the Tesla Model S, which allowed the car to drive semi-autonomously, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said each driver would become an “expert trainer” for every Model S. Each car could improve its own autonomous features by learning from its driver, but more significantly, when one Tesla learned from its own driver—that knowledge could then be shared with every other Tesla vehicle.

As Fred Lambert with Electrik reported shortly after, Model S owners noticed how quickly the car’s driverless features were improving. In one example, Teslas were taking incorrect early exits along highways, forcing their owners to manually steer the car along the correct route. After just a few weeks, owners noted the cars were no longer taking premature exits. “I find it remarkable that it is improving this rapidly,” said one Tesla owner.

Ray Kurzweil has written extensively on the gaps in human understanding between what he calls the “intuitive linear” view of technological change and the “exponential” rate of change now taking place. Almost two decades after writing the influential essay on what he calls “The Law of Accelerating Returns”—a theory of evolutionary change concerned with the speed at which systems improve over time—connected devices are now sharing knowledge between themselves, escalating the speed at which they improve.

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Eternity Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) | Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License | http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/