This kid built a mind-controlled prosthetic arm, your life is invalid

Sometimes you forget how big some countries are. You get so caught up in your life that you forget how big your own country is, so it’s no wonder you forget there are over 1.3 billion people in China and just less, around 1.2 billion, in India. Think about that for a second. Google tells me that the population of the USA is around 313 million. Can you imagine a country the size of India with the average living standards of the USA? They would be an unstoppable world force. Even now, there are millions of doctors, academics and otherwise very, very smart people coming out of India.

Take Shiva Nathan for example. He’s a 15 year old from India who clearly has a very great life ahead of him. After being inspired to help a family member who lost both arms below the elbow, Shiva set about creating his own prototype prosthetic. Two years later, he has finished his robotic arm, which uses a Mindwave Mobile headset to read EEG waves from the wearer and uses Bluetooth to send certain types of thought to the arm which translates them into finger and hand movements.

Sure, it isn’t as advanced as modern research has made possible, but he’s friggin' fifteen years old and done this without any outside help. He now has the support of MIT, where is he taking pre-college classes. I read some stuff about ssh today and felt like a genius, but this kid’s blown me out the water. I wonder how many hidden geniuses there are in India that can do things this great or greater? [Source]

Prepare yourself for the creepiest animatronics you will ever see in your life

I had a cousin that would cower in fear at the animatronic animal band at Chuck E. Cheese's. It was a sight to see -- whenever those curtains would raise and Jasper T. Jowls would strum away at his guitar, my cousin would run to the back of the restaurant and hide under a table while cautiously observing the band getting down. My cousin had a fear of the unknown, and in retrospect it reflected how she lived her life thus far. You guys don't know my cousin, and I'm fairly certain she doesn't read MiddleEasy, her fear is what Donald Rumsfeld would call an 'unknown known.'

Animatronics, it's an art that's somewhat dead due to the advent of CGI and just a general disinterest for robots unnaturally jerking around. Well, unless you just embrace the antiquated nature of animatronics and use it to make the creepiest art installation in modern human history. Props to stevemcawesome for the +100 news tip.

Finally, a thinking cap that really can help you learn


My honours project was an EEG study on rhythm maintenance in which we asked participants to follow a simple rhythm and fill in the missing beats with key presses on a computer keyboard. We were then able to watch in real time as their brains reacted to the stimuli. It’s completely mesmerising watching brain waves dancing across the screen. It’s less mesmerising when you realise that every tiny electrode you hook up to the skull-cap the participants are wearing exponentially increases your data collection and subsequent work. Still, very cool to run an EEG study, even if it wasn’t selected for publication. The competition for publication is pretty great, especially when people are making breakthrough discoveries such as a literal thinking cap.

Ph. D candidate Robert Reinhart and assistant professor of psychology Geoffrey Woodman of Vanderbilt University have recently published a study in the Journal of Neuroscience in which they demonstrated that by using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) that you can essentially increase or decrease learning capacity by stimulating specific parts of the brain with a tiny electrical current. tDCS looks similar to EEG in that the participant wear a cap into which electrodes are placed however EEg is used to measure brain activity whereas tDCS applies a direct current to stimulate areas of the brain.

In the study, participants carried out a reverse Simon says type game in order to generate the most errors. The researchers found that by targeting stimulation to the medial-frontal cortex, which we believe recognises errors, they were able to significantly increase a participant’s performance. They also found out that the learning effects (such as recovering from and correcting mistakes quickly) were transferrable to other skills and that the effects lasted for about five hours. The sci-fi lover in me wants to say that coffee-fueled all-night cramming sessions may soon be replaced by short tDCS sessions, but even though the sensation is barely noticeable would you want to be zapped in the brain if it improved your capacity for learning?


A new doping technique may be able to detect steroid use from years ago

A new anti-doping method has been invented which will allow regulatory bodies to carry out tests which are anything between 10 to 10,000 times more sensitive than the current methods. This essentially means that we can now find out if someone has taken steroids in the past few years, instead of past few weeks. This new method has not yet been fully validated but if it is, it will likely change the face of a number of sports, MMA included. Interesting...

Dr Daniel Armstrong led the team who created the method, called Paired Ion Electrospray Ionisation (PIESI), which builds on the mass spectrometry technique currently used. Essentially, particles of anything we put into our bodies can be left behind for many years, and can be atomically weighed if detected. However some particles are just too small for current methods to detect. PIESI works by using a binding agent to stick these smaller particles together, forming a bigger area which we can detect.

While it won’t work with blood samples or detect Human Growth Hormone (HGH), it will certainly detect if someone has used banned stimulants or steroids, including the types of painkillers that Thiago Silva was likely taking when he submitted non-human urine for his pee test. I don’t know about you guys but I’m definitely keen to hear if this new method will be picked up by the various state athletic commissions and to what extent previous use will have to be declared.

For example, will they be allowed to (or want to) disclose information that a certain fighter HAD used banned substances in the past but no longer did? It would certainly make people who use banned substances on a cycle to avoid testing regulations think twice if we could detect previous use in the past few years.

And yes, it will work for marijuana as well. [Source]

The advent of robot journalism and how you will never be able to tell the difference

After the shock of finding out that academic papers written by an algorithm were peer-reviewed then published despite being incomprehensible gibberish, I thought nothing would surprise me again. Well, nothing in the way of news about writing. OK, that’s a lie, but I was pretty surprised. The idea that we can’t tell if an algorithm or a real person has written something is not good news for people like me, or sites like this.

If Zeus were to replace the writers of MiddleEasy with an algorithm that took information from a database of pop-culture tropes and crossed it with a bunch of Google News alerts for keywords and top-read stories in certain areas, could you tell the difference? Maybe, but chances are, you wouldn’t care.

Well, at least according to a recent study by Swedish scientist Christer Clerwall, people don’t much notice or even care if the news headlines are written by an algorithm or a real person. He sat two groups down and gave them headlines to read from either an algorithm or a person and then asked them to rate how they felt.

The chart below may have failed had I submitted it with my own coursework because of poor x-axis labeling but it comes from the research paper published in Journalism Practice at the end of last month.

The primary reason there isn’t much of a difference between most of these points is that the participants really did not care. The main difference was that computer-generated headlines were seen as more boring and those written by a person were judged to be more pleasant to read. My bet is that you guys wouldn’t care if our articles were computer generated as long as the Sunday Morning Rumour Mill arrived on Sunday Morning.

I’ll let you guys in on a secret. I already use a robot to write my headlines. I call him Jason Nawara. [Source]

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