‘Brain’ in a dish flies flight simulator

(CNN) — A Florida scientist has developed a “brain” in a glass dish that is capable of flying a virtual fighter plane and could enhance medical understanding of neural disorders such as epilepsy.

The “living computer” was grown from 25,000 neurons extracted from a rat’s brain and arranged over a grid of 60 electrodes in a Petri dish.

The brain cells then started to reconnect themselves, forming microscopic interconnections, said Thomas DeMarse, professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Florida.

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DeMarse's "brain in a dish" contains 25,000 living neurons.

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Lab Freaks Gone Wild?

Scientists plan to make “cybrids” by putting human DNA into cow eggs.The British government gave the go-ahead this week for two separate groups to experiment with the process. Scientists will “inject human DNA into empty eggs from cows, to create embryos known as cytoplasmic hybrids that are 99.9 per cent human in genetic terms,” according to The Times of London.

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Chemical brain controls nanobots – BBC NEWS

A tiny chemical “brain” which could one day act as a remote control for swarms of nano-machines has been invented.The molecular device – just two billionths of a metre across – was able to control eight of the microscopic machines simultaneously in a test.

Writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists say it could also be used to boost the processing power of future computers.

Many experts have high hopes for nano-machines in treating disease.

“If [in the future] you want to remotely operate on a tumour you might want to send some molecular machines there,” explained Dr Anirban Bandyopadhyay of the International Center for Young Scientists, Tsukuba, Japan.

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The researchers have already built larger 'brains'

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‘Frankenfoods’ Giant Monsanto Plays Bully Over Consumer Labeling

Monsanto doesn’t want consumers to know the truth about the milk they’re drinking. The corporation’s monopoly is at stake.

“There are some corporations that clearly are operating at a level that are disastrous for the general public … And in fact I suppose one could argue that in many respects a corporation of that sort is the prototypical psychopath, at the corporate level instead of the individual level.”

–Dr. Robert Hare, The Corporation

Since 1901, Monsanto has brought us Agent Orange, PCBs, Terminator seeds and recombined milk, among other infamous products. But it’s currently obsessed with the milk, or, more importantly, the milk labels, particularly those that read “rBST-free” or “rBGH-free.” It’s not the “BST” or “BGH” that bothers them so much; after all, bovine somatrophin, also known as bovine growth hormone, isn’t exactly what the company is known for. Which is to say, it’s naturally occurring. No, the problem is the “r” denoting “recombined.” There’s nothing natural about it. In fact, the science is increasingly pointing to the possibility that recombined milk is — surprise! — not as good for you as the real thing.

“Consumption of dairy products from cows treated with rbGH raise a number of health issues,” explained Michael Hansen, a senior scientist for Consumers Union. “That includes increased antibiotic resistance, due to use of antibiotics to treat mastitis and other health problems, as well as increased levels of IGF-1, which has been linked to a range of cancers.”

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Famed geneticist creating life form that turns CO2 to fuel

A scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans said Thursday he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

Geneticist Craig Venter disclosed his potentially world-changing “fourth-generation fuel” project at an elite Technology, Entertainment and Design conference in Monterey, California.

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This undated handout photo shows Dr. J. Craig Venter on his research sail boat, the Sorcerer II off the coast of San Diego, California. Venter, the scientist who mapped his genome and the genetic diversity of the oceans, said Thursday he is creating a life form that feeds on climate-ruining carbon dioxide to produce fuel.

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Can a thinking, remembering, decision-making, biologically accurate brain be built from a supercomputer?

Out of the Blue

Can a thinking, remembering, decision-making, biologically accurate brain be built from a supercomputer?

In the basement of a university in Lausanne, Switzerland sit four black boxes, each about the size of a refrigerator, and filled with 2,000 IBM microchips stacked in repeating rows. Together they form the processing core of a machine that can handle 22.8 trillion operations per second. It contains no moving parts and is eerily silent. When the computer is turned on, the only thing you can hear is the continuous sigh of the massive air conditioner. This is Blue Brain.

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An ancient metal – copper – the new weapon against superbugs

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Following research by Professor Bill Keevil at the University of Southampton showing that copper can significantly reduce the presence of MRSA, a Birmingham hospital is to launch an 18-month clinical trial next month (April 2007) to establish whether the installation of copper surfaces will kill MRSA and other hospital-acquired infections.

Laboratory tests by Professor Keevil, Director of the Environmental Healthcare Unit at the University of Southampton, have established that the natural antimicrobial properties of copper and copper alloys dramatically reduce the presence of MRSA compared with stainless steel, the most commonly used surface-metal in health institutions. The MRSA bacteria (staphylococci) on stainless steel remained fully active for days. On brass (an alloy of copper and zinc) they died in less than 5 hours and on pure copper the superbugs were eliminated in 30 minutes.

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Professor Keevil explains that copper suffocates the germs. ‘The metal reacts with the bacteria and inhibits their respiration – in effect it stops them breathing. In fact if you look back in the literature the Egyptians were using copper thousands of years ago to treat infections!’

Selly Oak has been chosen for the Copper Clinical Trial because it is a multi-specialist centre with an advanced microbiology centre. One general medical ward is already having copper installed in preparation for the trial. Because 80 per cent of MRSA transmission is through surface contacts, stainless steel door handles and push-plates are being replaced by copper, along with bathroom taps, toilet flush-handles and grab rails. Even the pens used by the staff will be a high-copper brass. A similar ward next door will retain its traditional metal fittings and will act as a control in the experiment. If the laboratory results are successfully replicated, it is likely that thousands of hospitals across Europe will introduce copper alloy fittings.

Deputy Medical Director of the University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, Professor Tom Elliott, says: ‘Potentially it is very, very exciting if we find that copper actually works in a clinical environment, following the laboratory tests in Southampton and here in Birmingham.’

The tests show that it is not just MRSA that can be killed by copper. The newer threat, the extremely resistant Clostridium difficile can also be killed, as demonstrated by preliminary tests. Scientists are already considering wider medical applications for copper, including a possible defence against bird flu. Experiments by the Southampton team have shown that the metal can kill the human flu virus. Professor Keevil says, ‘Avian flu is almost identical to normal human flu so, although we haven’t done the work yet, we would predict the same results.’

The Copper Development Association has been working with the supply chain to support the development of copper and copper alloy healthcare products for the trial through the provision of information on the efficacy of different copper alloys and their suitability for different applications. www.cda.org.uk/antimicrobial.

13 March 2007

Source: University of Southampton

Math profs link particle actions, human free will

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Math professors Simon Kochen (above) and John Conway proved the Free Will Theorem, which suggests an unexpected connection between the nature of human decisions and the behavior of microscopic particles.

Scientists and philosophers have long questioned whether the future of the world is entirely a function of its past. They have wondered whether everything that happens – every wink, idea, smile – is the inevitable end of a sequence of events set in motion by the Big Bang. They have asked whether the motion of every electron in every experiment follows a predetermined path – or whether that motion is left to cosmic chance.

Two Princeton mathematicians have cast new light on the question of whether the behavior of particles in the universe is predetermined. In research that is not yet finalized, they have also posited an unexpected link between the answer to this question and a centuries-old debate over human free will.

The professors, John Conway and Simon Kochen, have proven what they call the Free Will Theorem. It says that given three assumptions, if particles’ behavior is truly predetermined, then people cannot have free will. In other words, if the behavior of a particle is fully determined by its past, so too are all the so-called decisions people believe they are making.

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