International Intonation – April 10, 2013

Mark Hendricks, Contributor Ω

I can see what you’re dreaming

Japanese scientists recently announced they can predict what a person is dreaming about with 60 per cent accuracy.

The process involves a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, which measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow and an algorithm. The scientists subject patients to an fMRI and analyse their brain patterns while they sleep. They then wake the patient up and ask them what they saw.

The researchers then find an image of what the patient was dreaming about and show it to them while they are still in the fMRI, then they take a reading again.

The results are then fed into a learning algorithm that translates the neural activity registered in an fMRI into images. When the patients sleep, the algorithm produces images of what the person is seeing based on the learned data.

At present time the algorithm is right 60 per cent of the time, but due to the nature of a learning algorithm it will only get more accurate the more information is fed into it.

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Printing skin or something like it

Oxford University scientists recently published in the journal Science that they can print synthetic material out of fat and water using a 3-D printer that closely resembles human tissue.

The process requires a custom-built 3-D printer that chains together water droplets and fats.

The synthetic tissue has a wide range of potential applications, like administering drugs and replacing damaged tissue.

The future implications are much more profound and could create synthetic muscles to replace damaged ones.

“We have created a scalable way of producing a new type of soft material,” said Gabriel Villar, lead author of the paper and builder of the 3-D printer.  “The printed structures could in principle employ much of the biological machinery that enables the sophisticated behaviour of living cells and tissues.”

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Rocket in Kennedy Space Center's rocket garden- PHOTO COURTESY OF MARIE & ALISTAIR KNOCK

Rocket in Kennedy Space Center’s rocket garden

Fusion powered rocket travel

Researchers from the University of Washington are busy constructing the components of a fusion-powered rocket that could take people to Mars in as little as 30 days.

The project is being funded through NASA’s Innovative Advanced Concepts program.

All the individual pieces of the rocket have been successfully tested in laboratory circumstances. Now they just need to see if the pieces will all work together.

To power the rocket, scientists created a plasma that is encased in its own magnetic field. When the magnetic field is compressed, fusion occurs.

A piece of this material the size of a grain of sand has the same energy potential as nearly four litres of rocket fuel.

For comparison purposes, a return trip to Mars using current technology would take over four years.

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