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Singularity Summit 2011

Singularity Summit 2011 will be a TED-style two-day event on October 15 – 16 featuring futurist Ray Kurzweil and Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings on IBM’s Watson, economist Tyler Cowen on the economic impacts of emerging technologies, and PayPal founder Peter Thiel on innovation and jump-starting the economy.

Other speakers include neuroscientist Christof Koch, MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark, AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky, MIT polymath Alexander Wissner-Gross, DARPA challenge winner Riley Crane, Skype founder Jaan Tallinn, television personalities Jason Silva and Casey Pieretti, and robotics professors James McLurnkin and Robin Murphy.

The event will be held at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. More info.

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Singularity Summit 2011 in New York City

Singularity Summit 2011 will be a TED-style two-day event on October 15–16 featuring futurist Ray Kurzweil and Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings on IBM’s Watson, economist Tyler Cowen on the economic impacts of emerging technologies, and PayPal founder Peter Thiel on innovation and jump-starting the economy.

Other speakers include neuroscientist Christof Koch, MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark, AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky, MIT polymath Alexander Wissner-Gross, DARPA challenge winner Riley Crane, Skype founder Jaan Tallinn, television personalities Jason Silva and Casey Pieretti, and robotics professors James McLurnkin and Robin Murphy.

The event will be held at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. More info.

The Singularity Summit 2011 will be a TED-style two-day event on October 15-16 featuring futurist Ray Kurzweil and Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings on IBM’s Watson, economist Tyler Cowen on the economic impacts of emerging technologies, PayPal founder Peter Thiel on innovation and jumpstarting the economy.

Diabetes affects more than 300 million worldwide, but life-expectancy has increased

Researchers at Imperial College London and the Harvard School of Public Health have found that the number of adults worldwide with diabetes reached 347 million in 2008, more than double the number in 1980.

Seventy per cent of the rise was due to population growth and aging, with the other 30 per cent due to higher prevalence.

Increased life expectancy

Despite this news, the life expectancy of people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes dramatically increased during the course of a long-term, 30-year prospective study, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health researchers have found.

The life expectancy for participants diagnosed with type 1 diabetes between 1965 and 1980 was 68.8 years — a 15-year improvement compared to those diagnosed between 1950 and 1964. The 30-year mortality of participants diagnosed with type 1 diabetes from 1965 to 1980 was 11.6 percent — a significant decline from the 35.6 percent 30-year mortality of those diagnosed between 1950 and 1964.

Reversing diabetes with extreme diet

In addition, a team at Newcastle University has discovered that Type 2 diabetes can be reversed by an extreme low-calorie diet alone.

Under close medical supervision, 11 people who had developed diabetes later in life were put on a diet of just 600 calories a day consisting of liquid diet drinks and non-starchy vegetables. After just one week, the team found that the volunteers’ pre-breakfast blood sugar levels had returned to normal, fat levels in the pancreas had returned from an elevated level to normal, and the pancreas regained the normal ability to make insulin.

The researchers followed up on the volunteers three months later. During this time, the volunteers had returned to eating normally but had received advice on portion size and healthy eating.  Of the ten people re-tested, seven remained free of diabetes.

Ref.: Goodarz Danaei, et al., National, regional, and global trends in fasting plasma glucose and diabetes prevalence since 1980: systematic analysis of health examination surveys and epidemiological studies with 370 country-years and 2·7 million participants, The Lancet, 2011; [DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(11)60679-X]

Ref.: Rachel G. Miller, et al., Improvements in the Life Expectancy of Type 1 Diabetes: The Pittsburgh Epidemiology of Diabetes Complications Study, American Diabetes Association online, [Abstract Number 0078-OR]

Ref.: R. Taylor, et al., Reversal of type 2 diabetes: normalisation of beta cell function in association with decreased pancreas and liver triacylglycerol, Diabetologia, 2011; [DOI 10.1007/s00125-011-2204-7]

Brain rhythm associated with learning linked to running speed

Rhythms in the brain that are associated with learning become stronger as the body moves faster, neurophysicists at the University of California, Los Angeles, have found.

The experiment was performed by measuring electrical signals from hundreds of mice neurons using microwires, the researchers said. Nearly a hundred gigabytes of data was collected every day.

Analysis of the data showed that the gamma rhythm, a fast signal that occurs while concentrating or learning, gradually grew stronger as the mice moved faster.

Does this mean movement or exercise could influence the learning process? The researchers said it is too early to tell.

Ref.: Mayank R. Mehta, et al., Speed Controls the Amplitude and Timing of the Hippocampal Gamma Rhythm, PLoS ONE, 2011; 6 (6): e21408 [DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0021408]

New software advances brain image research

A new software program that allows neuroscientists to produce single brain images pulled from hundreds of individual studies has been developed by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder, trimming weeks and even months from the research process.

The new software can be programmed to comb scientific literature for published articles relevant to a particular topic, and then to extract all of the brain scan images from those articles, the researchers said. Using a statistical process called “meta-analysis,” the researchers are then able to produce a consensus brain activation image reflecting hundreds of studies at a time.

The research team was able to distinguish people who were experiencing physical pain during brain scanning from people who were performing a difficult memory task or viewing emotional pictures, with nearly 80 percent accuracy.

“Because the new approach is entirely automated, it can analyze hundreds of different experimental tasks or mental states nearly instantaneously instead of requiring researchers to spend weeks or months conducting just one analysis,” said Tal Yarkoni.

Tal Yarkoni, et al., Large-scale automated synthesis of human functional neuroimaging data, Nature Methods, 2011; [DOI:10.1038/nmeth.1635]

Ads for monkeys: sign of the end times?

Monkey trades a coin for grapes, picking the better deal (two grapes) (credit: Laurie Santos/Yale University)

This is not an Onion story. No, really.

Turns out Laurie Santos gave a TED talk last year on “monkeynomics” — the realization that monkeys understood an abstract idea like currency. Unfortunately, two advertising executives happened to be in the audience, New Scientist reports today.

The result: a monkey ad campaign (shown at the Cannes Lions Festival) to see if they can change the monkeys’ preference for Jell-O flavors. The ads were images hung outside the monkeys’ enclosure. One billboard shows a graphic shot of a female monkey with her genitals exposed, alongside the brand A logo. The other shows the alpha male of the capuchin troop associated with brand A.

I say give them access to an eTrade account and let ‘em go for the big bucks.

http://video.ted.com/assets/player/swf/EmbedPlayer.swf

Acoustic ‘cloaking device’ shields objects from sound

Acoustic Cloak

Reflections of sound off a surface (top), off an object on it (middle) and off a cloaked object (bottom) (credit: Physical Review of Letters)

Scientists at Duke University have developed a cloaking device using metamaterials that makes objects invisible to sound waves.

The device uses stacked sheets of plastic with regular arrays of holes through them. The exact size and placement of the holes on each sheet, and the spacing between the sheets, has a predictable effect on incoming sound waves.

When placed on a flat surface, the stack redirects the waves such that reflected waves are exactly as they would be if the stack were not there at all.

The researchers have demonstrated that their acoustic cloaking technique works in air, for audible frequencies between one and four kHz (roughly the first two octaves on the higher half of a piano).

With enhancements, the design could eventually be put to use in making ships invisible to sonar or in acoustic design of concert halls, the researchers said.