1. R.A. Montgomery, of the Choose Your Own Adventure books, dead at age 78.

    15 November 2014

    Children of the 80's will no doubt remember the shelves and shelves of little white paperbacks with red piping from the Choose Your Own Adventure series, where you could play as anything from a deep sea explorer to a shipwrecked mariner, a volunteer time traveler, or anything in between. If you're anything like me, you also spent way too much time looking for mistakes in the sequence of pages to find more interesting twists and no shortage of endings (most of them bad). I can't say they went out of print for a while but they did become harder to …

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  2. Reversing progressive memory loss, transplantable 3D printed organs, and improvements in resuscitation.

    13 November 2014

    Possibly the most frightening thing about Alzheimer's Disease is the progressive loss of self; many humans measure their lives by the continuity of their memories, and when that starts to fail, it calls into question all sorts of things about yourself... as long as you're able to think about them. I'm not being cruel, I'm not cracking wise, Alzheimer's is a terrifying disease because it eats everything that makes you, you. Thus, it is with no small feeling of hope that I link to these results at the Buck Institute for Research On Aging - in a small trial at UCLA …

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  3. Inducing neuroplasticity and the neurological phenomenon of curiosity.

    24 October 2014

    For many years it was believed by medical science that neuroplasticity, the phenomenon in which the human brain rapidly and readily creates neuronal interconnections tapered off as people got older. Children are renowned for learning anything and everything that catches their fancy (not always what we'd wish they'd learn) but the learning process seems to slow down the older they get. As adults, it's much harder to learn complex new skills from scratch. In recent years, a number of compounds have been developed that seem to kickstart neuroplasticity again, but they're mostly used for treating Alzheimer's Disease and not so …

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  4. Genetically modified high school grads, stem cell treatment for diabetes, and deciphering memory engrams.

    23 October 2014

    A couple of years ago I did an article on the disclosure that mitochondrial genetic modifications were carried out on thirty embryos in the year 2001 to treat mitochondrial diseases that would probably have been fatal later in life. I also wrote in the article that this does not constitute full scale genetic modification ala the movie Gattaca. It is true that mitochondria are essential to human life but they do not seem to influence any traits that we usually think about, such as increased intelligence or hair color, as they are primarily involved in metabolism. In other words, mitochontrial …

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  5. Cardiac prosthetics and fully implanted artificial limbs.

    20 October 2014

    No matter how you cut it, heart failure is one of those conditions that sends a chill down your spine. When the heart muscle grows weak and inefficient, it compromises blood flow through the body and can cause a host of other conditions, some weird, some additionally dangerous. Depending on how severe the condition is there are several ways of treating it. For example, my father in law has an implanted defibrillator that monitors his cardiac activity, though fairly simple lifestyle changes have worked miracles for his physical condition in the past several years. Left ventricular assist devices, implantable pumps …

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  6. Synaesthesia and noise-cancelling headphones.

    16 October 2014

    I've never really gone out of my way to publicize the fact that I'm a synesthete - my senses are cross-wired in ways that aren't within the middle of the bell curve. In particular, my sense of hearing is directly linked to my senses of sight, touch, proprioception, and emotional state. As one might expect, this causes a few problems in day to day life - I can't go to concerts without wearing earplugs because I shut down from sensory overload, and too much noise makes it nearly impossible to see (and thus, get anything done). The new office at work poses …

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  7. Visiting the Computer History Museum.

    13 October 2014

    A couple of months ago, Amberite and I visited the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California with his father. I'll admit, I wasn't sure what to expect on the way over there. I've been to the Smithsonian quite a few times but the Computer History Museum is just that: Dedicated to the entire history of computing and nothing but. There are exhibits of the history of robotics, video games, military equipment, and of course one of practically every personal computer ever made, from the Amstrad CPC (which never really had a large community in the States, though it was …

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  8. Notes from the Artificial Intellligence and the Singularity conference in September.

    08 October 2014

    As I've mentioned several times before, every couple of week the Brighter Brains Institute in California holds a Transhuman Visions symposium, where every month the topic of presentation and discussion is a little different. Last month's theme was Artificial Intelligence and the Singularity, a topic of no small amount of debate in the community. Per usual, I scribbled down a couple of pages of notes that I hope may be interesting and enlightening to the general public. A few of my own insights may be mixed in. Later on, a lot of stuff got mixed together as I only wrote …

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