See on Scoop.it - The future of medicine and health
Inside the weird and hopeful world of cryonics surgery
In 1972 Max More saw a children’s science fiction television show called Time Slip that featured characters being frozen in ice. He didn’t think much about it until years later, when he started hanging out with friends who held meetings about futurism. “They were getting Cryonics magazine,” he says, “and they asked me about it to see how futuristic I was. It just made sense to me right away.”
More is now the president and chief executive officer of Alcor, one of the world’s largest cryonics companies. More himself has been a member since 1986, and has decided to opt for neuropreservation—just deep freezing the brain—over whole body preservation. “I figure the future is a pretty decent place to be, so I want to be there,” he says. “I want to keep living and enjoying and producing.”
Cryopreservation is a darling of the futurist community. The general premise is simple: Medicine is continually getting better. Those who die today could be cured tomorrow. Cryonics is a way to bridge the gap between today’s medicine and tomorrow’s. “We see it as an extension of emergency medicine,” More says. “We’re just taking over when today’s medicine gives up on a patient. Think of it this way: Fifty years ago if you were walking along the street and someone keeled over in front of you and stopped breathing you would have checked them out and said they were dead and disposed of them. Today we don’t do that, instead we do CPR and all kinds of things. People we thought were dead 50 years ago we now know were not. Cryonics is the same thing, we just have to stop them from getting worse and let a more advanced technology in the future fix that problem.”
See on theatlantic.com
LOS ANGELES — The world is awash in plastic. It’s in our cars and our carpets, we wrap it around the food we eat and virtually every other product we consume; it has become a key lubricant of globalization — but it’s choking our future in ways that most of us are barely aware. I have just returned with a team of scientists from six weeks at sea conducting research in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans north and south of the Equator at the latitude of our great terrestrial deserts. Although it was my 10th voyage to the area, I was utterly shocked to see the enormous increase in the quantity of plastic waste since my last trip in 2009. Plastics of every description, from toothbrushes to tires to unidentifiable fragments too numerous to count floated past our marine research vessel Alguita for hundreds of miles without end. We even came upon a floating island bolstered by dozens of plastic buoys used in oyster aquaculture that had solid areas you could walk on. Plastics are now one of the most common pollutants of ocean waters worldwide. Pushed by winds, tides and currents, plastic particles form with other debris into large swirling glutinous accumulation zones, known to oceanographers as gyres, which comprise as much as 40 percent of the planet’s ocean surface — roughly 25 percent of the entire earth.
No scientist, environmentalist, entrepreneur, national or international government agency has yet been able to establish a comprehensive way of recycling the plastic trash that covers our land and inevitably blows and washes down to the sea. In a 2010 study of the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers, my colleagues and I estimated that some 2.3 billion pieces of plastic — from polystyrene foam to tiny fragments and pellets — had flowed from Southern California’s urban centers into its coastal waters in just three days of sampling.
How mindfulness can ease ‘burden’ of dementia
Northwestern University Original Study
Mindfulness training eases depression and improves sleep and quality of life for both people with early-stage dementia and their caregivers, research shows. “The disease is challenging for the affected person, family members, and caregivers,” says study lead author Ken Paller, professor of psychology at Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences at Northwestern University and a fellow of the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Although they know things will likely get worse, they can learn to focus on the present, deriving enjoyment in the moment with acceptance and without excessive worry about the future. This is what was taught in the mindfulness program.” Neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s are particularly hard on caregivers, who are often close family members. They tend to have an increased incidence of anxiety, depression, immune dysfunction, and other health concerns as well as an increased mortality rate, according to prior studies. This is the first study to show that the caregiver and the patient both benefit from undergoing mindfulness training together. This is important because caregivers often don’t have much time on their own for activities that could relieve their emotional burden. (via How mindfulness can ease ‘burden’ of dementia - Futurity)
Some people can hold huge amounts of information in their mind and even manipulate it, trying out different ideas, while other people can only hold small amounts. Why do people have the particular capacity they have? How can we investigate these differences between people? It turns out the key to answering these questions is to get people to remember information in only one of their five senses, for example, vision. By doing this we narrow down the field of things to investigate. We can look at the precise brain anatomy related to just that one sense in different people and figure out which parts of their brain allow for greater information capacity. This is exactly what we did in our Cerebral Cortex paper. We found that people with a physically larger visual cortex – the part at the back of the brain that deals with what we see – could hold more temporary information in their memory. This is interesting for a number of reasons because it suggests that the physical parameters of our brains set the limits to what we can do with our minds.
The larger your visual cortex the more visual information it can hold. But the “visual cortex bucket” has to actively hold on to the information. It takes voluntary effort on your behalf to continually hold this information and then use it.
It is worth noting that size is not everything. Many other brain factors can and will influence your mental life and indeed your working memory capacity.
These factors include the degree of internal connections between different brain areas, the level of neural transmitters, the hormones in your body and brain, and of course the amount of stress you are under.
In our study, we found that both the thickness and the surface size of the visual cortex independently predicted how much people could hold in visual working memory. So indirectly at least, it seems that your parents or ancestors might have passed their visual cortex down to you, or at least its size.”
BAE Systems developing “smart skin” for aircraft
In some cases, a pilot discovering damage to an airplane involves noticing a frightening thump on the hull. That may indicate that something is wrong, but not what or where. On the other hand, when human beings are injured, the network of nerves in the skin tell us almost exactly where and what is wrong. Stealing a march on nature, BAE Systems’ Advanced Technology Centre is working on a “smart skin” that covers the fuselage of an aircraft with thousands of microsensors to send back a wide variety of detailed information in real time. Currently in concept form, the BAE smart skin is the brainchild of Senior Research Scientist Lydia Hyde, who got the idea from her clothes dryer’s ability to switch itself off if it overheats. She reasoned that if one sensor in a washer is good, then thousands of tiny ones are better. “Observing how a simple sensor can be used to stop a domestic appliance overheating, got me thinking about how this could be applied to my work and how we could replace bulky, expensive sensors with cheap, miniature, multi-functional ones,” says Hyde. “This in turn led to the idea that aircraft, or indeed cars and ships, could be covered by thousands of these motes creating a ‘smart skin’ that can sense the world around them and monitor their condition by detecting stress, heat or damage. The idea is to make platforms ‘feel’ using a skin of sensors in the same way humans or animals do.” The concept involves replacing the conventional pitot tubes, thermometers, and other instruments with a skin on the fuselage of the plane that contains tens of thousands of multi-sensors less than a millimeter across. These are so small that they could even be spray painted on existing aircraft. They would have their own power system, and would connect with one another and the user interface using wireless networking technology. (via BAE Systems developing “smart skin” for aircraft)
Autómata: a believable robot future
YOUR TIME IS COMING TO AN END. OURS IS NOW BEGINNING.
Fast forward fifty years into the future, planet earth is in the midst of gradual desertification. Mankind struggles to survive as the environment deteriorates and the slow regression of the human race begins in AUTÓMATA. On the brink of life and the reality of death, technology combats the prevailing uncertainty and fear with the creation of the first quantum android, the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Designed to bring support to society’s plight, man and robot reveal what it means to co-exist in a culture defined by human nature. The descent of civilization is juxtaposed by the rise of ROC, the corporation at the helm of robotic intelligence. Despite the demise of humanity, the company has set forth security protocols to ensure mankind always maintains control over the manufactured population. As ROC insurance agent, Jacq Vaucan (Antonio Banderas) routinely investigates cases and complaints surrounding defective androids, he begins to uncover the secrets behind who is really manipulating the Automata Pilgrim 7000. Jacq’s own suspicions propel the mystery— uncovering a truth that is far more complex than the make or model of any machine. Writer/Director Gabe Ibáñez was driven to tell a story that blurs the lines between science fiction and reality. Ibáñez gives audiences a compelling look into the theory of evolution and what life might be like for mankind in the not too distant future. With powerful performances from a cast including Antonio Banderas, Birgitte Hjort Sørensen, Melanie Griffith, Dylan McDermott and Robert Forster, AUTÓMATA is a sci-fi film noir that explores the potential dangers and complexities when mind and machine merge. — Millennium Entertainment (via Autómata: a believable robot future | KurzweilAI)
Life doesn’t make trash
A genome is not a blueprint for building a human being, so is there any way to judge whether DNA is junk or not?
Humans are astounding creatures, our unique and highly complex traits encoded by our genome – a vast sequence of DNA ‘letters’ (called nucleotides) directing the building and maintenance of the body and brain. Yet science has served up the confounding paradox that the bulk of our genome appears to be dead wood, biologically inert junk. Could all this mysterious ‘dark matter’ in our genome really be non-functional? Our genome has more than 20,000 genes, relatively stable stretches of DNA transmitted largely unchanged between generations. These genes contain recipes for molecules, especially proteins, that are the main building blocks and molecular machines of our bodies. Yet DNA that codes for such known structures accounts for just over 3 per cent of our genome. What about the other 97 per cent? With the publication of the first draft of the human genome in 2001, that shadow world came into focus. It emerged that roughly half our DNA consisted of ‘repeats’, long stretches of letters sometimes found in millions of copies at seemingly random places throughout the genome. Were all these repeats just junk? To answer this question, hundreds of scientists worldwide joined a massive science project called the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements, or ENCODE. After working hard for almost a decade, in 2012 ENCODE came to a surprising conclusion: rather than being composed mostly of useless junk, 80 per cent of the human genome is in fact functional. (via Is our genome full of junk DNA? – Itai Yanai and Martin Lercher – Aeon)