These are the articles and videos from the previous week I found most interesting.
- It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
- Climbing China’s Incredible Cliffs
- Using Neurobridge
- Biologically inspired models of intelligence
- How to speak so that people want to listen
- Quantum Computing 101
- Richard Feynman and the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster
What is new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Do social media affect the quality of teens’ lives? In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens’ use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Yet despite an environment of rampant fear-mongering, boyd finds that teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity.
China is home to the world’s greatest concentration of karsts: rocky spires and spillways shaped over time by the elements. For some climbers, scaling these challenging natural sculptures is the experience of a lifetime.
Here’s Ian Burkhart and how he uses our Neurobridge technology.
The Thought Experiment
Designing Brain Implants to Detect More and Last Longer
Peering Inside the Workings of the Brain
Searching for the “Free Will” Neuron
Neuroscience’s New Toolbox
Cracking the Brain’s Codes
Shining Light on Madness
A man in Ohio has become the first patient ever to move his paralyzed hand by using his thoughts. In a small, crowded laboratory at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, 23-year old Ian Burkhart looked closely at his hand, squinted with concentration and made a fist as doctors, neuroscientists and engineers from Battelle, and Ian’s family gasped.
The breakthrough was made possible by a cutting-edge technology called Neurobridge developed by researchers at Battelle, working with doctors at Ohio State. The special software that interprets brain signals and one-of-a-kind sleeve, developed by Chad Bouton, and his team at Battelle, helps create a bypass for Ian’s spinal cord.
For decades Ray Kurzweil has explored how artificial intelligence can enrich and expand human capabilities. In his latest book, How To Create A Mind, he takes this exploration to the next step: reverse-engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works, then applying that knowledge to create intelligent machines. In the near term, Ray’s project at Google is developing artificial intelligence based on biologically inspired models of the neocortex to enhance functions such as search, answering questions, interacting with the user, and language translation. The goal is to understand natural language to communicate with the user as well as to understand the meaning of web documents and books. In the long term, Ray believes it is only by extending our minds with our intelligent technology that we can overcome humanity’s grand challenges.
Have you ever felt like you’re talking, but nobody is listening? Here’s Julian Treasure to help you fix that. As the sound expert demonstrates some useful vocal exercises and shares tips on how to speak with empathy, he offers his vision for a sonorous world of listening and understanding.
D-Wave CEO Vern Brownell describes the promise and challenge of quantum computing.
This video is a highlight of Brownell’s presentation at Exponential Finance 2014, presented by Singularity University and CNBC.
Transcript: Quantum computing is a whole new category of computing and it directly leverages the laws of quantum mechanics to do a computation. As we all know quantum mechanics are the most fundamental laws in the universe. It describes how everything in the universe works. So what we’ve built and what other quantum computing researchers have done is create computers that directly use those laws of quantum mechanics. And that sounds fairly straightforward but, in fact, it’s quite difficult to do because the enemy of quantum computing is the environment. And when I saw the environment I mean things like temperature. And when you have temperature you have molecules moving around that cause interference to the quantum computation. You also have electromagnetic interference from radio sources and gamma rays and all sorts of things.
So you need to create a very quiet, clean, cold environment for these chips to work in. And ultimately what we’re building is a quantum computer on a chip that’s about the size of your fingernail in this very exotic environment. So that environment runs at near absolute zero. So absolute zero as you know is the lowest temperature possible in the universe. It’s also called zero degrees Kelvin.
So these machines run at a very low temperature so that they can have that pristine, very clean, quiet environment to run in and it doesn’t disturb that quantum computation. And, in fact, it runs down at what’s called 10 millikelvin which is .01 Kelvin. Absolute zero is zero degrees Kelvin so this is running at minus 273.14 degrees C and the lowest possible temperature in physics is minus 273.15 degrees C. So very, very cold. A very, very rarified environment because we’re also running in effectively a magnetic vacuum. So you could consider these environments, these rigs that we built, these systems that we built to be probably the most rarified environments in the universe unless there’s other intelligent life in the universe that has, you know, pure colder environments. For instance, outer space is 150 times warmer than the environment that we built for these quantum computations. So you may ask why do we go through all this trouble? The answer is the problems of quantum computing is exponential speed ups over classical computing for a particular set of problems.
And that’s very important and exciting to researchers that are working on that kind of human scale problem ranging from things like developing drugs for cancer or better modeling the molecular interactions of cancer and how it attacks cells and things like that to big data analysis, looking for patterns and inferences and drawing insight from large amounts of data or doing things like better modeling financial services markets and better managing risk and so on. So there’s all kind of applications that aren’t particularly well suited by today’s type of computers and I refer to today’s computers as classical computers. They compute largely in the same way they have for the past 60 or 70 years since John von Neumann and others invented the first electronic computers back in the 40s. And we’ve had amazing progress over those years. Think of all the developments there have been in the hardware side and the software side over those 60 or 70 years and how much energy has been put — energy and development has been put into those areas.
And we’ve achieved marvelous things with that classical computing environment. But it has its limits too and people sometimes ask why would we need any more powerful computers. These applications, these problems that we’re trying to solve are incredibly hard problems and aren’t well suited for the architecture of classical computing. So I see quantum computing as another set of tools, another resource, set of resources for scientists, researchers, computer scientists, programmers to develop and enhance some of these capabilities to really change the world in a much better way than we’re able to today with classical computing. It’s not a replacement for classical computing. It will be used in what I would call hybrid approach where you’re going to see both the capability that’s already been built in high performance computing and other types of computing markets working very closely with quantum computing resources…
Read Feynman’s Commission Report Appendix Here:
Richard Feynman worked on the Rogers Commission report during the investigation of the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, where Feynman famously demonstrated how the Booster Rocket O-rings, which are elastic sealing joints, became less resilient and subject to seal failures at ice-cold temperatures by immersing a sample of the material in a glass of ice water.
Feynman’s high intelligence and independant way of looking at the world, along with his disdain for authority and the military, often made him “a real pain” in the eyes of those in the commission who did not want heavy criticism of NASA.
General Rogers himself, wanted to remove Feynman’s Appendix, as it he deemed it “too critical” of NASA. Rogers backed down when Feynman wrote a letter to him, challenging Rogers that he would not sign the report unless his appendix was included.
General Rogers backed down, despite warnings from his own superiors about not being critical of NASA, as the manned space program was of utmost importance during Ronald Reagan’s administration which also created a huge drought on engineering resources for unmanned robotic spacecraft to the planets, plans which were criticized by many scientists who saw the shuttle missions as being used too often and at a strain of other missions, missions which would have had more long lasting scientific merit.
Feynman’s own investigation revealed a disconnect at the time between NASA’s upper management and its engineers and scientists that were responsible for risk analysis that was far more striking than he expected.
His interviews of NASA’s high-ranking managers revealed startling misunderstandings of elementary concepts, such as safety procedures, and in the reporting of faults in manned spacecraft design. More surprising was the incorrect calculations on the probability that a shuttle launch would fail in poor weather, which was completely out of touch with the risks inherent in the shuttle and rocket design by a factor of almost 1000 in some cases.
Although Feynman got plenty of media coverage due to him being on the Commission, he was often told to stay quiet about NASA’s more sinister secrets and tactics in manned space exploration which were putting lives in jeopardy without a full disclosure of risk information to astronauts and their families.