reflections on the technium

“The best way to predict the future is to invent it.” — Alan Kay

Brown Bag at the Movies – Selected technical topics(20)

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This will be the last one for 2011.

For this installment of Brown Bag at the Movies we will be viewing (abstract below):

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CEP COMMENT:

Ben Kacyra: Ancient wonders captured in 3D
<http://www.ted.com/talks/ben_kacyra_ancient_wonders_captured_in_3d.html>
12:20
ABSTRACT

“Ancient monuments give us clues to astonishing past civilizations — but they’re under threat from pollution, war, neglect. Ben Kacyra, who invented a groundbreaking 3D scanning system <http://archive.cyark.org/>, is using his invention to scan and preserve the world’s heritage in archival detail. (Watch to the end for a little demo.)

BIO

Ben Kacyra: Digital preservationist <http://archive.cyark.org/ben-kacyra-people> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CyArk>
“Ben Kacyra uses state-of-the-art technology to preserve cultural heritage sites and let us in on their secrets in a way never before possible.

“Why you should listen to him: As a child, Ben Kacyra was taken to visit the ruins of the ancient city of Nineveh near his home town of Mosul in Iraq, giving him an abiding appreciation for the value of history. So when the Taliban destroyed the Buddhas of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001, the Iraqi-born civil engineer was dismayed. In 2002, he founded California-based nonprofit CyArk in order to apply a highly accurate, portable laser-scanning technology he’d originally developed for monitoring nuclear power plants and other structures – to preserving the world’s cultural heritage sites, what Kacyra calls “our collective human memory”.

“CyArk’s methods are fast and accurate: pulsed lasers generate 3D points of clouds, which render surfaces at accuracy to within millimeters. Combined with high-definition photography and traditional surveying techniques these data make it possible to create highly detailed media – photo textured animations, 3D fly-throughs – that digitally preserve our knowledge of heritage sites against natural disaster, war, and neglect, and make them accessible to the world. Among the sites already scanned are ancient sites in Mexico, the leaning tower of Pisa, and Mount Rushmore.

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CEP COMMENT:

Jay Bradner: Open-source cancer research
<http://www.ted.com/talks/jay_bradner_open_source_cancer_research.html>
12:48
ABSTRACT

“How does cancer know it’s cancer? At Jay Bradner’s lab, they found a molecule that might hold the answer, JQ1 — and instead of patenting JQ1, they published their findings and mailed samples to 40 other labs to work on. An inspiring look at the open-source future of medical research.

BIO

Jay Bradner: Research scientist
“In his lab, Jay Bradner, a researcher at Harvard and Dana Farber in Boston, works on a breakthrough approach for subverting cancer .. and he’s giving the secret away.

“Why you should listen to him: A doctor and a chemist, Jay Bradner hunts for new approaches to solving cancer. As a research scientist and instructor in medicine at Harvard and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, he and his lab are working to subvert cancer’s aggressive behavior by reprogramming the cell’s fundamental identity. A molecule they’re working on, JQ1, might do just that. (And he’s giving it away in order to spur faster open-source drug discovery.) If you’re a researcher who’d like a sample of the JQ1 molecule, contact the Bradner Lab <http://bradner.dfci.harvard.edu/jq1.php>.

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CEP COMMENT:

Paul Zak: Trust, morality — and oxytocin
<http://www.ted.com/talks/paul_zak_trust_morality_and_oxytocin.html>
16:35
ABSTRACT

“What drives our desire to behave morally? Neuroeconomist Paul Zak shows why he believes oxytocin (he calls it “the moral molecule”) is responsible for trust, empathy and other feelings that help build a stable society.

BIO

Paul Zak: Neuroeconomist <http://www.neuroeconomicstudies.org/>
“A pioneer in the field of neuroeconomics, Paul Zak is uncovering how the hormone oxytocin promotes trust, and proving that love is good for business.

“Why you should listen to him: What’s behind the human instinct to trust and to put each other’s well-being first? When you think about how much of the world works on a handshake or on holding a door open for somebody, why people cooperate is a huge question. Paul Zak researches oxytocin, a neuropeptide that affects our everyday social interactions and our ability to behave altruistically and cooperatively, applying his findings to the way we make decisions. A pioneer in a new field of study called neuroeconomics, Zak has demonstrated that oxytocin is responsible for a variety of virtuous behaviors in humans such as empathy, generosity and trust. Amazingly, he has also discovered that social networking triggers the same release of oxytocin in the brain — meaning that e-connections are interpreted by the brain like in-person connections.

“A professor at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California, Zak believes most humans are biologically wired to cooperate, but that business and economics ignore the biological foundations of human reciprocity, risking loss: when oxytocin levels are high in subjects, people’s generosity to strangers increases up to 80 percent; and countries with higher levels of trust – lower crime, better education – fare better economically.

He says: “Civilization is dependent on oxytocin. You can’t live around people you don’t know intimately unless you have something that says: Him I can trust, and this one I can’t trust.”

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CEP COMMENT:

Daniel Wolpert: The real reason for brains
<http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_wolpert_the_real_reason_for_brains.html>
20:00
ABSTRACT

“Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert starts from a surprising premise: the brain evolved, not to think or feel, but to control movement. In this entertaining, data-rich talk he gives us a glimpse into how the brain creates the grace and agility of human motion.

BIO

Daniel Wolpert: Movement expert <http://www.neuroscience.cam.ac.uk/directory/profile.php?wolpert>
“A neuroscientist and engineer, Daniel Wolpert studies how the brain controls the body.

Why you should listen to him:
“Consider your hand. You use it to lift things, to balance yourself, to give and take, to sense the world. It has a range of interacting degrees of freedom, and it interacts with many different objects under a variety of environmental conditions. And for most of us, it all just works. At his lab in the Engineering department at Cambridge, Daniel Wolpert and his team are studying why, looking to understand the computations underlying the brain’s sensorimotor control of the body.

“As he says, “I believe that to understand movement is to understand the whole brain. And therefore it’s important to remember when you are studying memory, cognition, sensory processing, they’re there for a reason, and that reason is action.” Movement is the only way we have of interacting with the world, whether foraging for food or attracting a waiter’s attention. Indeed, all communication, including speech, sign language, gestures and writing, is mediated via the motor system. Taking this viewpoint, and using computational and robotic techniques as well as virtual reality systems, Wolpert and his team research the purpose of the human brain and the way it determines future actions.

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OTHER NEWS: More on the 10,000 year clock <http://spectrum.ieee.org/geek-life/profiles/engineering-the-10-000year-clock>.

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Written by Chuck Petras

December 24, 2011 at 11:14

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