Hitachi Brain-Machine Interface
November 19, 2006, 1:02 pm
Filed under: Information Tech, Medicine, Neuroscience

Hitachi have demonstrated a brain-machine interface allowing users to perform simple switching. “In the experiments, test subjects were able to activate the power switch of a model train by performing mental arithmetic and reciting items from memory.” [source: Pink Tentacle] Continue reading


Puramatrix Bring Nano-Scaffolding to Market
November 17, 2006, 4:17 pm
Filed under: Medicine, Nanotechnology, Neuroscience

The Foresight Nanotech Institute have published glowing praise for the aspirations of PuramatrixTM founder, Prof. Shuguang Zhang. They approvingly quote Zhang from an eJournal article:

For example, aging and damaged tissues can be replaced with the scaffolds that stimulate cells to repair body parts or to rejuvenate the skin. We also might be able to swim and dive like dolphins or to climb mountains with a nanoscaffold lung device that can carry an extra supply of oxygen. It is not impossible to anticipate painting cars and houses with photosynthesis molecular machines that can harness the unlimited solar energy for all populations on every corner of the planet, not just for the wealthy few…[source]

The Puramatrix company website has an impressive publications list. The company is basing its business on nano-scaffolding techniques that can be used to facilitate the construction of any number of other structures and mechanisms.

Cat Vision Decoded in 1999
November 17, 2006, 3:34 pm
Filed under: Medicine, Neuroscience

Another old piece of research. Cat vision being decoded at Berkeley by Yang Dan, Garrett B. Stanley and Fei Fei Li:

Decoded cat vision and source

The original research was reported in:

Garrett B. Stanley, Fei F. Li, and Yang Dan
Reconstruction of Natural Scenes from Ensemble Responses in the Lateral Geniculate Nucleus
J. Neurosci., Sep 1999; 19: 8036 – 8042

The abstract, links to full text and citations can be found at The Journal of Neuroscience.

Virus Identification in 60 Seconds
November 16, 2006, 6:17 pm
Filed under: Medicine, Nanotechnology

Science Daily report that a technique has been developed allowing viruses to be indentified in seconds. The method involves measuring the shift in the frequency of light as it is scattered off DNA or RNA molecules – the Raman shift. The effect has been too weak to be of practical use until an interdisciplinary team deployed nanotechnology to take greater control of the light scattering event. The innovation involves laying nanorods at an angle of 86 degrees over the sample in order to amplify the measurable Rama shift.

Silver Nanorod array

“It saves days to weeks,” said lead author Ralph Tripp, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Vaccine Development at the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “You could actually apply it to a person walking off a plane and know if they’re infected.” [Source]

Bib Ref:

Rapid and Sensitive Detection of Respiratory Virus Molecular Signatures Using a Silver Nanorod Array SERS Substrate
Shanmukh, S., Jones, L., Driskell, J., Zhao, Y., Dluhy, R., and Tripp, R.A.
Nano Lett., 6, 11, 2630 – 2636, 2006, 10.1021/nl061666f

Cord-farms and personal biological insurance
November 16, 2006, 1:51 pm
Filed under: Medicine, Philosophy, Philosophy of Science

Wired reports that LifeCell are planning to open a publicly accessible bank of stem cells collected from umbilical cords in India. Since donors would be paid for their contributions there are fears that a “cord-farm” culture could emerge amongst the poor. Wired also reports that:

For the past two years, LifeCell has run a private cord-blood bank, which caters to 4,000 paying donors who can afford their own personal biological insurance policy. Its customers bank their own blood in case they need a stem-cell treatment one day and can’t find a viable donor. In a collaboration with Florida-based CryoCell, LifeCell has aggressively expanded to 19 locations throughout India. It plans to have 31 centers up and running by 2007.[Source]

Since people are already storing eggs and sperm in case of medical problems late in life the wealthy will soon need managers to administer their growing portfolio of externalised biotech self-maintenence strategies. At least two groups of philosophers should be paying attention of these developments:

  1. Philosophers of mind working with the ‘extended cognition/mind’ thesis.
  2. Systems theorists working with the theory of autopoeisis.

To what extent are these developments extensions of the self-maintenance systems that articulate agents? Are these instances of somatic self-maintenance tasks migrating from lower level systems into cognitive strategies?