Thursday, February 12, 2015

Scientist: 'Try to contact aliens'

Scientists at a US conference have said it is now time to actively try to contact intelligent life on other worlds.
Researchers involved in the search for extra-terrestrial life are considering what the message from Earth should be.
The call has been made at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in San Jose.
But others argued that making our presence known might be dangerous.
Researchers at Seti have been listening for signals from outer space for more than 30 years using radio telescope facilities in the US. So far there has been no sign of ET.
The organisation's director, Dr Seth Shostak, told attendees to the AAAS meeting that it was now time to step up the search.
"Some of us at the institute are interested in 'active Seti', not just listening but broadcasting something to some nearby stars because maybe there is some chance that if you wake somebody up you'll get a response," he told BBC News.
The concerns are obvious, but sitting in his office at the institute in Mountain View, California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, he expresses them with characteristic, impish glee.

Start Quote

Any society that could come here and ruin our whole day by incinerating the planet already knows we are here”
Dr Seth ShostakSeti Institute
"A lot of people are against active Seti because it is dangerous. It is like shouting in the jungle. You don't know what is out there; you better not do it. If you incite the aliens to obliterate the planet, you wouldn't want that on your tombstone, right?"
I couldn't argue with that. But initially, I could scarcely believe I was having this conversation at a serious research institute rather than at a science fiction convention. The sci-fi feel of our talk was underlined by the toy figures of bug-eyed aliens that cheerfully decorate the office.
But Dr Shostak is a credible and popular figure and has been invited to present his arguments.
Leading astronomers, anthropologists and social scientists will gather at his institute after the AAAS meeting for a symposium to flesh out plans for a proposal for active Seti to put to the public and politicians.

High on the agenda is whether such a move would, as he put it so starkly, lead to the "obliteration" of the planet.
"I don't see why the aliens would have any incentive to do that," Dr Shostak tells me.
"Beyond that, we have been telling them willy-nilly that we are here for 70 years now. They are not very interesting messages but the early TV broadcasts, the early radio, the radar from the Second World War - all that has leaked off the Earth.
"Any society that could come here and ruin our whole day by incinerating the planet already knows we are here."

His argument isn't entirely reassuring. But neither is the one made by David Brin, a science fiction writer invited to speak at the AAAS meeting, who opposes the plan.
"Historians will tell you that first contact between industrial civilisations and indigenous people does not go well," he told me.
Mr Brin believes that those in favour of active Seti have been "railroading the public into sending a message without a wide and detailed discussion of what the cultural impact might be".
He does not fear a Hollywood-style alien invasion and thinks the likelihood of making contact is extremely low. But the risks, he argues, are extremely high and so merit careful consideration before anyone sends out a signal to potentially habitable worlds.
"The arrogance of shouting into the cosmos without any proper risk assessment defies belief. It is a course that would put our grandchildren at risk," he said.
Also on the agenda at the active Seti symposium is that if we are to send a message to ET - what should it be?
Some involved in the discussions believe we should send a sanitised account of ourselves, leaving out parts of our history we aren't proud of and putting a positive spin on our achievements - as if our species were attending a job interview or first date. Dr Shostak disagrees. He thinks the only way to win over the aliens is to be ourselves.

"My personal preference is to send the internet - send it all because if you send a lot of information then there's some chance that they'll work it out".

Popcorn's Perfect Recipe Revealed

11 February 2015 Last updated at 08:50 ET
Scientists in France have worked out the critical temperature at which popcorn bursts.
They found that when the popcorn reached a threshold of 180C, the outer shell burst open regardless of the size and shape of the grain.
The research also revealed insights into the way that popcorn jumps as it breaks open, and the sound emitted as water vapour is suddenly released.
The whole process of bursting, jumping and popping occurs in hundredths of a second.
But the physicists Emmanuel Virot and Alexandre Ponomarenko studied each stage in detail to understand its underlying scientific basis.
Using high-speed cameras that record at 2,900 frames per second, they observed the popcorn as it was heated in an oven. The researchers cranked up the temperature at increments of 10C over a period of five minutes.
Moisture inside the corn began to turn to steam as the temperature passed 100C (212F), but when it rose to 180C (356F), the pressure inside climbed to around 10 times the atmospheric pressure at sea level.
Pop music
Unable to withstand the stress, the outer shell breaks open and the starchy innards expand, forcing their way out through the shattered hull.
At 170C, only 34% of the popcorn kernels had popped, but at 180C, 96% of the corn had burst.
"We found that the critical temperature is about 180C, regardless of the size or shape of the grain," Mr Virot, from the École Polytechnique near Paris, told the AFP news agency.
Then the scientists turned their attention to the way popcorn jumps. The first thing to emerge from the fractured hull is a limb-shaped structure dubbed a leg.
popcorn poppingThe analysis revealed a starchy "leg" which shoots out and propels the kernel into the air
Pent-up energy is released into the starchy "leg", which pushes against the hot plate, launching the flake up to a height of a few millimetres to centimetres in the air.
"A piece of popcorn has a singular way of jumping, midway between explosive plants such as impatiens, and muscle-based animals such as human beings," the researchers write in their paper.
Finally, the team studied the characteristic popping sound made by the corn. They found that it was not related to the jumping action, because it occurred too early.
Instead, they conclude, it is most likely caused by the sudden, rapid release of water vapour from the kernel.
In addition, after the corn bursts, a pressure drop turns cavities inside the corn into acoustic resonators.

CNN ~ Coverage On Leading Women

Can this brain-sensing headband give you serenity?
By Sally Hayden, for CNN
updated 6:43 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014

Garten even used Muse to power this levitating chair.
  • Ariel Garten's high-tech headband monitors brain activity
  • Called 'Muse,' the device transmits information to your computer
  • Can pour beer, control music volume, turn on lights just by thinking
  • By tracking brain waves, could help users reduce stress
Editor's note: Leading Women connects you to extraordinary women of our time -- remarkable professionals who have made it to the top in all areas of business, the arts, sport, culture, science and more.
(CNN) -- Imagine a gadget that knows your mind better than you do.
Picture a device that can rank the activities in your life that bring you joy, or interject your typed words with your feelings.
One woman has helped create just that.
Ariel Garten believes that the brain -- with its 100 billion neurons that receive, register, and respond to thoughts and impulses -- has the power to accomplish almost anything, if only its power could be properly harnessed.
Can a headband read your mind?
Her company InteraXon, which she co-founded withTrevor Coleman, has produced Muse, a lightweight headband that uses electroencephalography (EEG) sensors to monitor your brain activity, transmitting that information to a smartphone, laptop or tablet.
The high-tech headband has been used to pour beer, levitate chairs, or control the lights -- all without the wearer lifting a finger.
And in a world where technology is often blamed for raising stress levels, 35-year-old Garten believes her $300 headband could even help calm us down.
The Canadian -- who has worked as a fashion designer, art gallery director, and psychotherapist -- spoke to CNN about her influences and vision for the future of technology.
CNN: How does Muse help reduce stress?
Ariel Garten: Muse tracks your brain activity. Your brain sends electro-signals just like your heart does, and this headband is like a heart rate monitor.
As it tracks your brain activity, it sends that information to your computer, smartphone or tablet, where you can do exercises that track your brain activity in real time, and give you real time feedback to teach you how to calm and settle your mind.
The headband allows the wearer to see their brain activity when connected to a smartphone, tablet or laptop.
CNN: Technology is often blamed for making people stressed -- is there a certain irony in also using it to also calm us down?
AG: Technology can definitely be responsible for making people stressed because it pulls at our attention, it distracts us, it increases the number of demands and in some ways decreases our own agency.
We're very interested in inverting that on its head and creating solutions that help you calm yourself; that can help you stay grounded, choose what to focus your attention on, and manage your own mind and your response to the world.
Technology itself is not the evil, it's the way that it's implemented.
Ariel Garten, CEO, InteraXon
Technology itself is not the evil, it's the way that it's implemented. Technology can have some great solutions for us. Look at all the amazing medical interventions that we have.
CNN: You've suggested Muse could provide medical benefits for children with ADD -- how?
AG: To be clear, Muse is not a medical device, it's a computer product. Exercises using Muse have suggested that they can help people with ADHD, by helping you increase your state of focused attention.
We've had amazing emails -- just recently we had an email from somebody who is 29 years old with ADHD and after just two days of using Muse had noticed a benefit. Three weeks out they sent me an email saying 'this is not a game changer, this is a life changer.'
The muse headset up close.
CNN: Have you had interest in the product from any unexpected places?
AG: We've been contacted by a lot of sports stars and sports celebrities -- people wanting to use it to improve their sports game. We were surprised because we're so used to thinking of it as a cognitive tool.
We can't read your thoughts, we can't read your mind
Ariel Garten, CEO InteraXon
There's been quite a number of research labs using Muse, and they've been looking at applications in depression, epilepsy, and communications.
And then we've also had a lot of interest from companies interested in integrating our technology into their wellness and development programs. Companies like Google wanting to offer this to their employees to help improve their productivity and their wellness.
CNN: Do you have any reservations about the development of mind-mapping devices?
AG: In InteraXon we believe very strongly that you own all your own data. We have a very strict privacy policy. It's like a heart rate monitor, it's very binary so we can't read your thoughts, we can't read your mind. But we're very much into leading the way on the very responsible use of this technology.
Ariel Garten speaks at the What's Next panel at Engadget Expand.
CNN: What inspired you to get involved in this area?
AG: My background is in neuroscience, design and psychotherapy, and I'm very interested in helping people understand their own minds and use their minds more productively in their own life. Our brains get in our way in so many ways.
The things that we think, the feelings that we have, all of these things can be beautiful supports to our life and encourage the lives that we live. But they can also cause all kinds of anxiety, worries, all of these things that hold us back.
As women, we are so good at holding ourselves back with the thoughts that are in our heads.
Ariel Garten, CEO, InteraXon
Particularly women are a huge inspiration to me because we're so good at holding ourselves back with the thoughts that are in our heads. We're constantly worried about things like 'does this person think this way about me?' or 'have I done well enough?' or 'have I achieved as much as I'm supposed to?'

We have these dialogues within ourselves that can be really debilitating, and you know the answer is 'of course you're good enough,' and 'of course you've done well enough,' and 'of course you can achieve that.' And if you can learn to understand and gain control over your own internal dialogue, you can really learn to sort of undo the shackles that hold you back in your daily life, and your career, and your relationships.

New York Daily News

A Muse you can use: Biofeedback headband can help train your brain to relax

$299 device works with a smartphone app to record your brain waves so you can work to control them

What would happen if you crossed the Buddha with a well-meaning HAL?
That’s the idea behind Muse, a $299 meditation headband that reads your brain waves — and trains your mind to calm itself. It’s one part yoga guru, one part “Star Trek” tricorder.
“Muse helps you slow your mind,” says its co-creator, Trevor Coleman, whose company InteraXon received some seed money from laid-back “That ’70s Show” star Ashton Kutcher, no less.
Here’s how Muse works: Download the app, put on the feather-light headband, and begin to meditate as you stare at a beach scene on your smartphone.
Brain-wave readings taken five points on your forehead and ears are transmitted from the headband to your phone — an irony, given how much stress our smartphones give us every day.
If your brain waves are calm, you’ll hear a light breeze. If your mind wanders, the breeze turns to a tempest, and a cool female voice instructs you to focus on your breathing and count down from 10. If you heed the pseudo-Siri, the light breeze returns.
If your brain waves are calm, you’ll hear a light breeze. If your mind wanders, the breeze turns to a tempest, and a voice instructs you to focus on your breathing and count down from 10.

That’s the theory, of course, but this stressed-out, deadline-pressured neurotic didn’t do so well in her first three-minute session. My mind fluttered from one thought to the next, running through all the things I had to do and the thousands of emails in my inbox. The wind on the app howled.
Coleman expected that. With Muse, repetition is the mother of meditation. You don’t get rock- hard abs from one set of sit-ups, either.
“You’re exercising your attention,” he said. “And doing that over and over again builds your brain’s ability.”
Within a few sessions, it got easier to sense what calm felt like, and to chase that feeling. The app cleverly incentivizes peacefulness by unlocking features that shed more light on your progress.
Eventually, I noticed that I was “neutral” or “calm” rather than “active” in most of my sessions — and that I got better the more I meditated. By my third week, I was more than 50% calm!
NYC PAPERS OUT. Social media use restricted to low res file max 184 x 128 pixels and 72 dpiSUSAN WATTS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
The headband, whose sensors pick up brain waves ...
... which are displayed via a smartphone.MUSE
... which are displayed via a smartphone.
Coleman claims that people who live in chaotic places get the most out of the headband.
“It gives them an excuse to disconnect,” he said.
Muse is not the first company to try to harness brain waves — after all, doctors have been using electroencephalography for more than 100 years. But by linking EEGs to your smartphone, Muse hopes to cash in on today’s tech-savvy set that is always seeking a modern solution to age-old problems, in this case learning to calm down.
I used the device for about three weeks and felt noticeably cool and collected, better able to deal with my life’s many stresses.
But Muse lives up to its name: It’s no solution, just an inspiration. In moments of great stress, I’m still not responding with true calm — but I am less frazzled by the everyday demands of living in such a caffeinated place as New York. As with any form of self-improvement, the biggest problem is simply finding the time to stop your life to do the actual improving.
And, naturally, my smartphone never stops ringing or beeping, reminding me that I am oceans away from true relaxation. Then, Muse or no Muse, I find myself asking, “Serenity when?”
Thursday, October 30, 2014, 2:00 AM