A prodigy at the piano, Marc Yu wowed IdeaFestival audiences last year with his mastery of complex music. In this IdeaFestival Conversation, he says any child can be as good as he is as long as she is dedicated. But, he added, "the thing is, you have to love music."
Prodigious savant Daniel Tammet will offer his thoughts on thinking when the new and much improved IdeaFestival web site debuts in the next few days. Please watch for it and the simultaneous release of the speakers and agenda for IdeaFestival 2010!
First reported in Nature Genetics, a team of scientists have sequenced the hemoglobin genes from the DNA of three flash-frozen Siberian mammoths to discover the living attributes between those animals and the modern day elephant, and in particular, how the mammoths managed to survive the extreme Siberian cold during their lifetimes some 25,000 and 43,000 years ago.
As it turns out, Mammoth hemoglobin was specially able to deliver oxygen to respiring cells at extremely cold temperatures, minimizing costly heat
Using sophisticated techniques, Paleobiologists such as 2009 IdeaFestival presenter Chris Turney - no connection to the mammoth story - are increasingly able to use recovered biota and fossils to compare changes in life, then and now.
The agenda and speakers for the 2010 IdeaFestival ever will be released very soon!
What if, in addition to being responsible for micro-controllers and many other everyday technologies that have improved human life, space exploration and microgravity research radically changed our understanding of gene expression or why cancer cells metasticize?
What if Kentucky played a pivotal role in those discoveries?
Merging personal expression and computational power, "spacial computing" marks a departure from screen-only computing to incorporate bodily movement, another step toward mimicking how we organically interact with the world.
A business school might seem like an unlikely source for this kind of news, but apparently packing up our troublesdoes help us get past unwelcome events, according to research from the Rotman School of Management.
A new study... suggests you might want to stick something
related to your disappointment in a box or envelope if you want to feel
better. In four separate experiments researchers found that the physical
act of enclosing materials related to an unpleasant experience, such as
a written recollection about it, improved people's negative feelings
towards the event and created psychological closure. Enclosing materials
unrelated to the experience did not work as well....
While the market
implications might not be immediately obvious..., the
findings point to new angles on such things as fast pick-up courier
services and pre-paid mortgage deals that relieve people's sense of debt
burden. If people realize that the memory of past events or tasks can
be distracting, perhaps there is a market for products and services that
can enclose or take away memories of that task.
But the effect can be observed in people as well. New studies demonstrate that two individuals standing even feet apart can, in fact, experience time very differently.
What's more, writing in the latest issue of PopSci, Steven Kotler suggests that understanding why time dilation occurs in individuals during times of crisis (think flying bullets in The Matrix) might lead to better treatments for mental illnesses. Kotler:
In recent years, scientists have learned that the circadian rhythms that
control our 24-hour sleep/wake cycle are governed by a cluster of
10,000 brain cells called the suprachiasmatic nucleus. Sorting out what
happens moment to moment is the focus of [David] Eagleman [neuroscientist at Baylor College of Medicine]... [H]is
Baylor-based Laboratory for Perception and Action is one of the only
facilities dedicated to running experiments that produce hard data on
how we perceive time.
Engleman has found that the brain keeps two clocks, one "that feeds you a perception of the now, and
another that is constantly at work tidying up that perception." To conserve energy, the portion of the brain "tidying up" will predict events, meaning that the everyday events will flow by relatively unnoticed, while the unexpected events takes longer - or so we think - to pass.
This new understanding might have profound implications for sufferers of mental illness.
Deana Davalos, a psychologist at Colorado State University who works on
timing and mental illness, agrees. 'Sensory gating, the process by which
the brain filters out repeated stimuli, is a problem with
schizophrenia,' she says. 'Most people think it’s a breakdown in their
ability to inhibit responses to repeated stimuli, but Eagleman’s work
points to a timing malfunction.' To this end, Eagleman, with the help of
psychologists, is designing a videogame that would recalibrate the
brains of patients. He hopes to begin testing it in the next few years.
Referencing a Wired UK article on "ultra mapping," Nokia's head of interface design, Adam Greenfield, stakes a claim to some pretty rich epistemological territory. Maps that dynamically pinpoint us render more than another coordinate or elevation. No, they are much more illustrious:
[A]ll those routinely gorgeous renderings of subway ridership or crime or air quality imply something very different when you can either find yourself within their ambit or cannot. At its rawest, the suggestion is this: either these issues affect me, or they do not. And this is true even if what is being mapped is a purely historical event. The implication is there, however faint.
One of the more interesting discussions at Lunch with IF on Friday followed the question, "What is life?"
Surprisingly, the answers aren't that straightforward, especially when the obvious marker of sentient, self-reflective behavior is excluded. Science is still divided over whether a virus, for example, is "alive." We also know of organisms on Earth that live in the crushing heated pressures near deep sea vents, metabolizing what elements are on hand, and microbes that have been trapped for millions of years in glacial ice.
And now that water ice has been confirmed near the surface of Mars, astronomer Pamela Gay put the possibility in context with a pithy quote that I asked her to repeat following Lunch with IF:
If the environment for life has been dramatically expanded, one might suggest that life is what responds in a systematic way to its surroundings.
University of Louisville biology professor Lee Dugatkin, who has studied animal behavioral extensively, discussed how a simple rulebook can lead to complex, even cooperative, behaviors, and pointed out the work being done with synthetic "life" by the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland. A little more effort turned up this this video that makes his point.
Thanks to University of Louisville professor and futurist Nat Irvin, who served on our panel as well. There were many other highlights that I and Elle Waters twittered during the discussion and follow up question and answer session. I'm sure we'll be doing more Lunches with IF - and give away more All-Access Passes too.
In contrast to the mesophiles - that would be you and me! - that live in the temperate climes that prevail over most of our world, what life forms may lie in the dark hidden lakes of the Antarctic? Nature:
Over the past 40 years, radar imagery has revealed around 150 freshwater
lakes of various sizes and ages beneath the massive Antarctic ice
sheet. Some have been isolated from the outside world for millions of
years, raising the possibility that they hold unique life forms. The
dark, nutrient-deprived environment of the lakes could resemble
conditions on Jupiter's moon Europa, which is assumed to hold a large
ocean beneath its frozen surface.
Three projects designed to carefully sample the lakes, at least one of
which is as large as Lake Ontario, will happen beginning next year. Hat tip: Alan Boyle