“Information is perhaps the rawest material in the process out of which we arrive at meaning: an undifferentiated stream of sense and nonsense in which we go fishing for facts. But the journey from information to meaning involves more than simply filtering the signal from the noise. It is an alchemical transformation, always surprising. It takes skill, time and effort, practice and patience. No matter how experienced we become, success cannot be guaranteed. In most human societies, there have been specialists in this skill, yet it can never be the monopoly of experts, for it is also a very basic, deeply human activity, essential to our survival. If boredom has become a sickness in modern societies, this is because the knack of finding meaning is harder to come by.”
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An artificial-intelligence system has learned to spot the telltale language people use when lying in court or in fawning online book reviews
LAWYERS and judges use skill and instinct to sense who might be lying in court. Soon they may be able to rely on a computer, too.
An AI system trained on false statements is highly accurate at spotting deceptive language in written or spoken testimony. It can also be used to weed out fake online reviews of books, hotels and restaurants.
The system is the work of computational linguists Massimo Poesio at the University of Essex in Colchester, UK, and Tommaso Fornaciari at the Center for Mind/Brain sciences in Trento, Italy. It is based on a technique called stylometry, which counts how often certain words appear in a passage.
The method is often applied to determine who wrote a piece of text, but software can employ it to pick out deception instead. The strategy is to seek out the overuse of linguistic hedges such as “to the best of my knowledge”, or overzealous expressions such as “I swear to god”.
"But all previous studies had used deceptive texts created in the lab," Poesio says. "What has been missing was a system that could work on real-world lies."
So he and Fornaciari trained a machine learning system by feeding it Italian courtroom depositions and statements by defendants known to have committed perjury. The researchers say it is now nearly 75 per cent accurate at indicating whether a defendant or witness is being deceptive. “We can achieve an accuracy that is way above chance,” says Poesio.
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iWinks aims to make lucid dreaming easier and more fun with the dream-enhancing Aurora headband, using EEG sensors and other hardware to detect when a sleep…
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The Miracle Machine turns water (and a few added ingredients) into wine
A certain historical figure is reputed to have once turned water into wine, and whether you believe this event actually happened or not, the idea is a compelling one. Now, a wine expert and an entrepreneur claim that they have created a device that turns this concept into a reality. Just to ensure the connection is made, they have called the device the Miracle Machine. The Miracle Machine, being brought to market by wine expert Kevin Boyer and entrepreneur Philip Vine, is a device capable of turning water into wine in a matter of days. Added to the water are a set of ingredients that includes grape concentrate, yeast, and a finishing powder that imbues the liquid with barrel-aged flavor. The wine is fermented using a method the pair aren’t willing to discuss, saying only that it involves “an array of electrical sensors, transducers, heaters and pumps.” All of the components inside the Miracle Machine are connected to an Arduino microcontroller that ensures the process is happening as it should. An accompanying app, linked to the Miracle Machine via Bluetooth, tracks the progress of the wine. It can also be used to select the perfect wine for your palette, telling you which ingredients to purchase in order to make the wine of your choice. (via The Miracle Machine turns water (and a few added ingredients) into wine)
How to learn like a memory champion
Companies are creating learning aids that tap the science of memories, says David Robson. Do they work in the classroom?
For most of his 20s, Ed Cooke had been hovering around the top 10 of the World Memory Championships. His achievements included memorising 2,265 binary digits in 30 minutes and the order of 16 packs of playing cards in just an hour. But at the age of 26, he was getting restless, and wanted to help others to learn like him. “The memory techniques take a certain discipline,” he says. “I wanted a tool that would just allow you to relax into learning.” The resulting brainchild was Memrise. Launched in 2010, the website and app is now helping more than 1.4 million users to learn foreign languages, history and science with the ease of Cooke’s memory powers. It has been followed by similar apps that also take the pain out of learning – both for individuals, and in schools, with some teachers finding benefits that even Cooke couldn’t have predicted. “It’s very powerful – it does all the spade work of learning,” says Dominic Traynor, who teaches Spanish at the St Cuthbert with St Matthias Primary School in London, UK. “I would say we’ve covered a year’s worth of work in the first six months.” (via BBC - Future - How to learn like a memory champion)
Neuroscientists monitor inhibitory neurons that link sense of smell with memory and cognition in mice, shaping perception from experiences
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Odors have a way of connecting us with moments buried deep in our past. But researchers have long wondered how the process works in reverse: how do our memories shape the way sensory information is collected? In work published in Nature Neuroscience, scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) demonstrate for the first time a way to observe this process in awake animals. The team, led by Assistant Professor Stephen Shea, was able to measure the activity of a group of inhibitory neurons that links the odor-sensing area of the brain with brain areas responsible for thought and cognition. This connection provides feedback so that memories and experiences can alter the way smells are interpreted. The inhibitory neurons that forge the link are known as granule cells. They are found in the core of the olfactory bulb, the area of the mouse brain responsible for receiving odor information from the nose. Granule cells in the olfactory bulb receive inputs from areas deep within the brain involved in memory formation and cognition. Granule cells relay the information they receive from neurons involved in memory and cognition back to the olfactory bulb. There, the granule cells inhibit the neurons that receive sensory inputs. In this way, “the granule cells provide a way for the brain to ‘talk’ to the sensory information as it comes in,” explains Shea. “You can think of these cells as conduits which allow experiences to shape incoming data.” Why might an animal want to inhibit or block out specific parts of a stimulus, like an odor? Every scent is made up of hundreds of different chemicals, and “granule cells might help animals to emphasize the important components of complex mixtures,” says Shea. For example, an animal might have learned through experience to associate a particular scent, such as a predator’s urine, with danger. But each encounter with the smell is likely to be different. Maybe it is mixed with the smell of pine on one occasion and seawater on another. Granule cells provide the brain with an opportunity to filter away the less important odors and to focus sensory neurons only on the salient part of the stimulus. Now that it is possible to measure the activity of granule cells in awake animals, Shea and his team are eager to look at how sensory information changes when the expectations and memories associated with an odor change. “The interplay between a stimulus and our expectations is truly the merger of ourselves with the world. It exciting to see just how the brain mediates that interaction,” says Shea. This work was supported by the Klingenstein fellowship and a fellowship from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Obesity may have harmful effects on the brain, and exercise may counteract many of those negative effects, according to sophisticated new neurological experiments with mice, even when the animals do not lose much weight. While it’s impossible to know if human brains respond in precisely the same way to fat and physical activity, the findings offer one more reason to get out and exercise.
It’s been known for some time that obesity can alter cognition in animals. Past experiments with lab rodents, for instance, have shown that obese animals display poor memory and learning skills compared to their normal-weight peers. They don’t recognize familiar objects or recall the location of the exit in mazes that they’ve negotiated multiple times.
But scientists hadn’t understood how excess weight affects the brain. Fat cells, they knew, manufacture and release substances into the bloodstream that flow to other parts of the body, including the heart and muscles. There, these substances jump-start biochemical processes that produce severe inflammation and other conditions that can lead to poor health.
Many thought the brain, though, should be insulated from those harmful effects. It contains no fat cells and sits behind the protective blood-brain barrier that usually blocks the entry of undesirable molecules.
However, recent disquieting studies in animals indicate that obesity weakens that barrier, leaving it leaky and permeable. In obese animals, substances released by fat cells can ooze past the barrier and into the brain.
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