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Monkey Robot Army

Scientists at Duke University Medical Center implanted electrodes in a monkey's brain, then set it on a mini treadmill and got it walking. Signals from the electrodes were able to control a robot and cause it to walk.

"We can read signals from cortical areas...the motor and sensory areas of the brain that are involved in the generation of the motor program to walk," says Duke neuroscientist Miguel A. L. Nicolelis. "And we are able to read these signals, decode them, and send them to a device...a bipedal robot that actually starts walking like a monkey."
The goal of Nicolelis and his colleagues is to pave the way for real-time direct interfaces between a brain and electronic and mechanical devices that could be used to restore sensory and motor functions lost through injury or disease. "Our hope is that one day soon," Nicolelis and his former postdoctoral fellow Sidarta Ribeiro wrote in a December 2006 Scientific American article entitled "Seeking the Neural Code," "we will also master sufficient syntax to talk back to the brain, which would allow us, for example, to build a human prosthetic arm laden with sensors to send tactile feedback into the somatosensory cortex of its user."

There's a YouTube video here. Although, for the most part, the commenters seem to be raving idiots, i, too, am curious as to just what was done to the monkey. They did say the electrodes were implanted in the monkey's brain, not just placed on the outside of her skull with some of the gel stuff. Does she now have tubes sticking out of her head? If she does, she would totally be within her rights to gain control of the robot and use it to reap her fiery revenge.

By min | March 20, 2008, 11:52 AM | Science | Comments (1)| Link

Drink Up!

I've always said if you knew the things i knew about where your water comes from and what criteria needs to be met to be considered "potable," you prolly would stop drinking. You might reconsider any activity that included water, actually.

Well, now there's something new that i didn't know about.

Pharmaceuticals including antibiotics, anti-convulsants, mood stabilisers and sex hormones have been found in the drinking water supplies of at least 41m Americans, according to an investigation by the Associated Press.

The concentrations of these pharmaceuticals are tiny, measured in quantities of parts per billion or trillion, far below the levels of a medical dose, and water utilities insist their water is safe.

But the presence of so many prescription drugs -- and over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen and ibuprofen -- in so much of the nation's drinking water is heightening worries among scientists of long-term consequences to human health.

In the course of a five-month inquiry, the AP discovered that drugs have been detected in the drinking water supplies of 24 major metropolitan areas -- from southern California to northern New Jersey, from Detroit, Michigan, to Louisville, Kentucky.

The pharmaceuticals enter the water because the bodies of people who take pills absorb some of the medication, but the rest of it passes through and is flushed down the toilet.

The wastewater from your toilet, sink, shower, street gutters, etc ends up at a wastewater treatment plant where it's "cleaned". It then gets dumped out into some body of water and somewhere downstream of that, a water treatment plant pumps it in, "cleans" it some more and pipes it to your homes. As the article says, the processes used to treat this water does not remove the drug residue. And why should they? They weren't designed for that.

It does say that the utilities are insisting the water is safe to drink, but let me put that in perspective for you. These are the same people who took over 3 months to tell us they exceeded their E. Coli levels. Not to mention the fact that there are no standards set for pharmaceuticals. So, really, as far as they're concerned, they haven't exceeded "acceptable risk" levels yet in their effluent. They most likely weren't even testing for it. Every test costs money and the fewer you can do, the better.

And if they had been, knowing there's no limit set for it, it's likely they just let it go. I say this having worked for a consulting company that knew an area was contaminated by their client's product but had no plans to do anything about it because the government only expressed concern about another location - that location being uphill from a residential area. So, basically, don't ask, don't tell is the usual policy. Is this absolutely the case here? I don't know. I'm just saying it wouldn't surprise me. And it's only come out now because the AP had journalists who discovered it.

So, who's thirsty now? I bet you Brita people with your carbon filters feel pretty silly now, eh? It only really removed volatile organics anyway. You prolly could have achieved the same by shaking your water vigorously.

By min | March 18, 2008, 11:29 AM | Science | Comments (4)| Link

World's Smallest Car

It starts rolling before he's even turned it on. Ha!

By min | March 11, 2008, 10:17 AM | Science | Comments (2)| Link

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