Our computers, our cars, our societies, our bodies, our automobile traffic, our network traffic, our brains and even our own solar system - all modular by design. Smaller mechanisms to complete a larger function. Where did it come from? And the bigger question - how did it happen?
Jeff Clune, Hod Lipson, and Jean-Baptiste Mouret, with support from the National Science Foundation and the Agence Nationale de la Recherche (ANR), believe to have these answers. Published today by the Proceedings of the Royal Society, their results from computational evolution experiments have been released that supports the hypothesis that it is due to the price of resource consumption by the network as a whole. Once there is a "cost" for communication applied to the algorithm, the system immediately and abruptly breaks itself down into a more modular design to run more efficiently.
When it evolves, or designs itself this way, you can think of it as networks becoming less of a 2-dimensional web, and more of a complex 3D lattice, the sort of system that can most commonly be associated with neural network.
Finding support in how to evolve modularity can be seen as a possible holy grail to many fields, but what it can do for AI seems to be the most exciting. By being able to naturally evolve modular design into existing systems, the functionality and complexity of those systems increases significantly.
I asked Jeff Clune and his thoughts on how this impacts Artificial Intelligence, and he had this to say
The field of evolving AI has produced a lot of impressive results, often beating all other machine learning algorithms and outperforming designs made by hand by human engineers. However, especially in the field of evolving neural networks (NNs), the evolved NNs pale in comparison to the sophistication and abilities of natural NNs (i.e. animal brains). One of the main limitations is that natural NNs are structurally organized in a modular design. However, computationally evolved NNs rarely, if ever, spontaneously evolve to have a modular design. A leading view in our field is that the lack of modularity serves as a "complexity ceiling" that limits the level of intelligence that can evolve. With this discovery, we can break through that complexity ceiling and greatly improve the intelligence of evolved computational neural networks.
On June 27th, Google demoed work that was being done for Google Glass (its augmented reality head-mounted display project) a device that would allow a heads up display to every day life by comfortably setting it in-front of the eye taking advantage of our field of view so it "feels" natural. Certain innovations need to be tailored to the user for better adaptation. Results also need to be present in order for the user to USE it and to see use in it. Once a user sees use in something, it becomes apart of their routine.
The next thing you need to successfully integrate something into peoples lives is data. Data. Data. Data. Data. What makes is useful? Why should I use it? There was a fantastic application for the Neurosky MindSet that perfectly exemplified this. It was a meditation tracker. It documented meditation sessions with the MindSet so the user could look back on data the app recorded. The type of data that users feed on for hardware like the FitBit or the Zeo Sleep aid, once you able to open up new avenues to people giving them more insight into themselves, personally is going to be the most impact full product.
Another leap needed to be made, the only logical step for it to go forward was for the hardware itself to be wireless, to go mobile. InteraXon were of the first (if not the first) to bring BCI from the computer to the mobile platform by adding a new thought-controlled element to SecretExits award winning ZenBound 2 which was made in collaboration with digital artist Alex McLoad.
On October 22ND InteraXon announced their campaign on Indiegogo for their new EEG bluetooth driven Muse headband (which at this time has more than reached its goal!) I sent a message to their Media Relations about some spec details and some information on the construction of the device itself and they replied "Our Muse headband was designed from the ground up. We considered the types of applications we planned on building, reviewed other products and wearable technologies, and tested our designs with consumers numerous times to ensure Muse was comfortable, lightweight and well-designed so that users could wear the headband anytime and anywhere." I asked the question, knowing InteraXon and NeuroSky partnering with great products in the past, what involvement if any was there for the Muse headband and they replied "InteraXon have used NeuroSky headsets, in addition to other headsets, as well as making our own, though with Muse, we are not using the NeuroSky ASIC or their sensors in this design"
The hardware itself looks to be light weight, and offers 4 sensors which should warrant accurate results for better data collection and when/if applications emerge that require/suggest outside activity, you wont look like this guy.
But other than that, its really hard to say at this point how it will perform. However the more I read about InterXon the more excited I get. When you look at their past products, they aren't just trying to get a product out, they are trying to design the future. Bundled with the hardware is a single application that comes off as a brain exercise tally sheet and workout program. I say that because I see A LOT of brain games, and honestly, they annoy me to no end and are no more "exercise" than balancing your check book is. Flash games ported to SDK triggers that look like they were designed for infants. But from what Ive seen and read about the application itself, this could be "the next big thing".
As I mentioned earlier, the Muse campaign met its 150k goal on Nov 18, but are hoping to double that about by the time their campaign ends NEXT FRIDAY on Dec 7th 2012. For that extension they added 125 Early Bird and another 25 Developer’s Deluxe packages. For the professional developers out there I would suggest the Developers Muse package @ $190 so not only do you get the SDK, but you also revive all the analytic tools and software InterXon uses to create applications. For the more homebrew hobbyist the $145 Early Bird Pledge package is a good choice because you still get the SDK, just not all the fancy schmancy analytical applications. I cant wait to hear more from their Media Relations about more news and more in-depth about what the bundled software is capable of. Stay tuned for more info!
With one button, the user has a choice of five different songs, all with this same full spectrum of frequencies, to help them rest. Four of the songs are musical, and one is an ambient ocean song.
ATLAS Experiment (c) 2012 CERN i
In 1970, Particle Physicists developed the Standard Model to describe how the twelve basic building blocks; called fundamental particles, interact with three of the four fundamental forces. Since then the Standard Model has successfully predicted and explained numerous experimental results. However, there has been a gaping hole in this well tested theory since its inception, known as the Higgs boson particle. This hole has just been filled.
On July 4th, in Melbourne Austrailia at the ICHEP conference, Cern presented preliminary data from two separate experiments (Atlas and CMS). This data expressed 5 Sigma results (1 being random, 3 being an observation, and 5 being a discovery) of the existence of a particle with a mass of 126 gigaelectronvolts (GeV), found by proton-proton collisions at the CERN Large Hydron Collider. This energy region is exactly where the Standard Model predicts the Higgs boson to exist.
In a press release from CERN, CMS experiment spokesperson Joe Incandela was quoted:
"The results are preliminary but the 5 sigma signal at around 125 GeV we’re seeing is dramatic. This is indeed a new particle. We know it must be a boson and it’s the heaviest boson ever found. The implications are very significant and it is precisely for this reason that we must be extremely diligent in all of our studies and cross-checks."
While the data is still preliminary, it is expected that a full report will be published by the end of the month. For now however, scientists will have their hands busy pouring over the data in an attempt to determine the precise nature of the particle, and its significance to our understanding of the universe. One of the more exciting questions to answer is whether this new particle will show the properties that are expected by particle physicists. According to CERN, we currently only see about 4% of the total matter, and a more exotic version of the Higgs particle may help us to understand the rest.
The Atlas Experiment was one of the key components in this discovery. ATLAS is a particle physics experiment at the LHC which is searching for new phenomena in high energy head on collisions. ATLAS hopes to answer the questions about the origins of mass, extra dimensions of space, and the unification of the fundamental forces. According to a news release on the ATLAS experiment homepage,
"The Higgs Boson is an unstable particle, living for only the tiniest fraction of a second before decaying into other particles, so experiments can observe it only by measuring the products of its decay. "
That’s all fine for those with advanced degrees in science, but what is the Higgs Boson to the rest of us, and why is it so important? Well simply put the Higgs boson is what gives everything in our universe mass. Without it, particles could be massless and behave like photons. As to why it is so important, it just so happens to be the very last particle predicted by the Standard model, so in it’s discovery it also further confirms the accuracy of the Standard Model. This discovery is the culmination of almost half a century of searching, since its prediction in 1964. Still not quite got it? Watch this video of Theoretical Physicist John Ellis:
For further information on the Atlas project as well as information on Higgs-boson you can read further at the Atlas Experiment FAQ site: http://www.atlas.ch/news/faqs.html
For further information on the CMS Experiment you can read further at the CMS homepage: http://cms.web.cern.ch/news/what-cms
1. Cern Home Page http://public.web.cern.ch/public/
2. Cern Press Release: http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2012/PR17.12E.html
3. Project Atlas: http://www.atlas.ch/news/2012/latest-results-from-higgs-search.html
4. Project CMS (Compact Muon Solenoid) http://cms.web.cern.ch/news/observation-new-particle-mass-125-gev http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/LHC/LHC-en.html
5. Wikipedia, Higgs Boson: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higgs_boson#.22The_God_particle.22
Chris Birkinbine is a Senior Physics Student at University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. His Applied Physics curriculum combines Physics, Electrical and Mechancial Engineering, and Material Science, as well as a personal interest in Information Technology. You can follow Chris Birkinbine at his personal site www.cbirkinbine.net, or his twitter feed cbirkinbine you can email him firstname.lastname@example.org
I just got done reading Frank Roses The Art of Immersion: How the Digital Generation Is Remaking Hollywood, Madison Avenue, and the Way We Tell Stories1, It’s a book on a subject I laughingly thought at one point I was going to be able to cram into a 6 - 7 paragraph article in which the subject was the coming age of full blown digital immersion; whether it be entertainment, marketing, exploration or simply storytelling, how it got there and where it's going along with a bird’s eye view of where it’s at. The book is a fantastic must read in my opinion for everyone to checkout. It’s fun to read and the narrative of situations are engaging, its seriously one of my faves of the year so far.
Storytelling is a trait of the human species that makes us 100% unique in this universe. The manner in which it in itself has evolved is something to be caught up in awe over. We do it every day in one way or another. We tell our loved ones how our day was, and/or we listen to theirs, we watch the news, talk to friends, facebook, blog, tweet, etc. Our very communication is often caught up in the fantastical overwhelmings of our brains recreating the story for us as the adrenaline begins to re-ignite the parts of our brain that gives us vivid playback of a memory. It's exhilarating. If you think about it, even in the workplace storytelling plays a huge role when you have a great idea and that idea needs to be conveyed in a manner that speaks to its audience.
I’ve personally had a growing concern for a while now that the entertainment business (along with my other qualms) has being going the way Video Games nearly did. It’s becoming less and less about the story, the engagement the immersion, and more about the Michael Bay, the pre-conceived visual masturbation factor. Thankfully we have seen backlash from public outcry of garbage remake after remake. But will it be enough? Hollywood has all but said it doesn’t need its writers, they have a 100years worth of material to regurgitate and feed to a younger unknowing audience who would see it as brand new, and would/could be quasi-profitable! And while that may be true, it takes away from human innovation and creative progression that we are all responsible for. One thing this can be attributed to is Media Execs cashing in on ideas from a business model they know (or soon will) will either change or collapse. Mr Rose touches on this a bit which I was happy about. How the business model of Mad Men advertising of the roaring 30s is soon coming to a close. Top Media producers even still give push back to the likes of Netflix and Hulu3 for being the first of their kind, legal and profiting, neither of which is in their pockets in the volume they believe they are worth. What a lot of people are turning an ignorant ear to is that in order for progression to occur, change needs to happen. New things don’t just appear out of thin air. Flowers eventually die and the soil is nurtured by it, seeds are planted and new plants are grown. Even looking at our own planet, it is in a constant state or cycle of renewing and replenishment, every volcano, every earthquake, while disruptive in action makes way for new and renewed beauty.
So Aside from a heroine/hero vs. villainess/villain story arc, what makes a good story? Well, that would be the Reward. Whether it is the clue to a mystery or the answer to a riddle, a story must have what I like to call "attention currency", not to be mistaken for dangling a carrot in front of the mule. All too often we draw out the forest in our heads above the trees ....good stories keep you in the forest and gently guide you In-between them. A concept Frank Rose touched on was a muse of JJ Abrams in which he owns a box that he got from a Magic Trick shop when he was young boy that to this very day he's never opened. Rightly though, it's a double edged sword, on one hand, the possibilities are infinite in what could possibly be in there, but on the other no matter what is in there, it would never live up to your expectations as to what you though was in the box.
For the past few months, for a project Im working on, I've been studying a lot of old sketches, any cave art I could get my eyes on, the higher the resolution the better, the imagery that was trying to be created, the contours’, the scale of the drawings. the images that were attempted to be depicted. And it always always makes me wonder….what were their stories? How much about them can we determine what their campfire gatherings sounded like? The DaVinci anatomy collection2 for the iPad blew my mind, as a person who’s always loved to draw...being able to see such documents and drawings in such high resolution displayed and laid out as if its intention was for you to learn and get deeply involved in it (unlike various other sources of similar material) completely floored me. It too told a story, and a beautiful one at that. DaVinci at the time was the only one qualified enough to create an anatomy book, and how it attributed to the source of rumors regarding corpses, which were true, but today we simply call them academic cadavers. It tells an anthropological story as to whom we were, and who he was. All these types of mediums engage us to look further, be more curious, but care needs to be taken, as Frank Rose put it, the longer you feed the curiosity, the greater the expectation becomes, the more expensive the attention currency gets. As the story of our storytelling continues, we will indeed need to push the boundaries of immersion and let old habits die easy, nothing stays the same, and if they did…it would make for a horrible story.
All in all the book will defiantly make you think, and you'll get a lil dose of good ol broadcast history to boot!
Couple days ago I saw a video posted of Derek Jacobys TEDxVictoria talk on Hackerspaces and Biology, at first glance I was really happy to see the two terms in the same sentence. Hackerspaces, HackerHouses, or the more media-friendly, MakerSpaces, have been popping up exponentially everywhere in the last 10 years. It’s a fantastic movement in bringing like-minded individuals of all sorts of walks of life, professions, trade and hobby together to talk shop, network, and divulge into interests, experiments or take part in large scale projects. Mixing know how, resource and project management they are hyper-generators...incubators even of ideas and sometimes...game changers.
Like when you are able to put the words Biology and Hackerspaces in the same sentence.
This is where the real magic starts happening. Man/Woman will always be curious. It’s how we create. It’s how we thrive. It’s how we evolve. With technology decreasing in not only price, but also in scale, we begin to be able to brush the threshold of the very building blocks that make you and me what we are. I previously had no idea that by the end of 2012 it will only cost $1,000 to sequence an entire human genome. 300gb of DNA code. Less than $3.50 per gigabyte of your human DNA decoded. The kicker is that price is down from $10,000,000 in 2005.
There are however the caveats, the ethical boundaries. Where would they lay? Designer babies are already possible. We can take cells and replicate them to create entire organs using organ scafolding structures. But these are the questions people will be asking very soon. And all and all, it’s exciting that we get to see these human innovations of direction and stride. We just need to make sure all our hands are on the reigns, not necessarily to hold back...but to hold on tight.
Elizabeth Gilberts TED talk in Longbeach CA is at the top of my list for not only unexpected favorite speakers, but also of all time. She urges society to TRULY encourage and nurture creativity of all types and to empathize with the meaning of the time in-between moments of genius and what the so called “conduit” is going through and to be more aware of the pressures we might expect of them and put on their shoulders.
She goes on to base this very loose and metaphoric hypothesis on the last 500 years, which was when the west began to refer to the genius as themselves and not an external entity, and the decline of the artist, and how so may artists succumb to their own wits, and sometimes even by their own hands.
It doubles as words of encouragement to creative types, reaffirming that there are two parts to the creative process, your hard work and those "moments of genius". Keep doing your part, and let those moments come and go as they please.
90% perspiration and 10% inspiration creates 100% creativity.
New research in the European Journal of Pediatrics has found that breast feeding children increases IQ. In the study, conducted by Wieslay Jedrychowski and colleges, 468 babies born to non-smoking mothers were tested five times at regular intervals through preschool age. The study found that children breast fed scored significantly higher than their bottle fed counter parts. The increase in IQ was also proportionate to the length of time the children were breast fed. There was an increase of 2.1 points for three months, 2.6 points for four to six months, and 3.8 points for longer than six months.
The question to answer now is why? Researchers believe that there is nothing in the breast milk itself that causes the increase in IQ, but instead it is the interaction with the mother. When breast feeding the child participates in more than just nourishment, they are also participating in a dynamic, bidirectional, biological dialogue, says Tonse Raju, a pediatrician and noenatalogist at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development in the current issue of Breastfeeding Medicine.
There is more research being done on this subject that takes into account the changes in brain white matter as children develop. There are also questions as to how much of a role parental verbal affection plays in normal development.
Carrie Dykes M.A. Psychology, School Counselling Writer/Commentator
Carrie has obtained a M.A. in School Counseling with a minor in religion/philosophy from Washington State University. She plans to continue her education in the years to come
The leading theories disclaiming the OPERA team’s faster than light neutrinos.
In the past few weeks the Physics community has been in an uproar over the announcement that the Oscillation Project with Emulsion-tRacking Apparatus (OPERA) team had discovered that Neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light. A plethora of papers have been written to explain away these findings, and most of them attribute it to an error in measurement.
There are however two theories that seem to be gaining popularity amongst all the ideas flying around. The first one has to do with Gravity, and how it effects clocks. Carlo R. Contaldi, in his paper “The Opera neutrino velocity results and the synchronisation of clocks”1 poses the question as to whether or not the OPERA team has properly taken into account the differences in clocks between one site and the other. There is a small difference that is due to gravity. According to Contaldi, “One-way speed measurements such as these inevitably require a convention for the synchronisation of clocks in non-inertial frames since the Earth is rotating.”
Basically what this article is saying, is they use once clock to record the start time, and another clock to record the end time, while the two clocks themselves have not been properly synchronized with each other. Because the Earth is rotating, it means that the two clocks are in a state of constant acceleration. This means that the reference frame is non-inertial. According to the Theory of Relativity which this experiment has threatened, only observers in an inertial (IE non-accelerating) frame are equivalent.
The OPERA team attempted to solve this issue by using a single GPS clock to time stamp both clocks at either end, and then used a second atomic clock transported from one site to the other to calibrate the difference in time signals. The problem with this as stated by Contaldi is that in essence, a single GPS satellite is only accurate within 100 ns on average. The traveling clock which they use to attempt to get a more accurate reading is traveling in an accelerating frame, which like the baseline clocks themselves, is due to the rotation of the Earth. The details of the issues with this can be read in the original article, but in summery the three relativistic time distortions are due to moving the clock through a non-uniform gravitational potential, a Doppler like effect due to the velocity of the traveling clock with respect to the rotating Earth, and lastly the Sagnac2 effect also due to the rotation of the Earth.
These are some pretty hefty claims, and it will be interesting to see if the OPERA team responds to them. The other big article that has some pretty legitimate claims is one that does not point to any error, but rather the lack of specific findings that should be seen if the neutrinos truly were traveling faster than light. Specifically the paper3 by Andrew G. Cohen, and Sheldon L. Glashow says that if the neutrinos were indeed traveling at that speed that they would undergo severe energy loss, “..causing the beam to be depleted of higher energy neutrinos”.
These two papers are just a small fraction of the responses that continue to come in about the neutrino results. There will be a lot of information and data that will need to be gone through before OPERA can confirm their results. If they do it will be a shattering blow to modern physics.
Chris Birkinbine is a Senior Physics Student at University of Idaho in Moscow, Idaho. His Applied Physics curriculum combines Physics, Electrical and Mechancial Engineering, and Material Science, as well as a personal interest in Information Technology. You can follow Chris Birkinbine at his personal site www.cbirkinbine.net, or his twitter feed cbirkinbine you can email him at email@example.com
It only seems fitting that IBM (in conjuction with 5 other major universities and DARPA), the company that brought us Jeopardy champ, artificial intelligence computer, Watson, would be who brings us something straight out of science fiction novels.
The NeuroSynaptic Chip
The first of its kind to process in the same fashion as the brain does; a “neurosynaptic core” with integrated memory (replicated synapses), computation (replicated neurons) and communication (replicated axons), all in one chip. It’s like taking computer computation from 2-Dimentions into full 3-Dimentional space. This attempts to overcome what is know as the “von Neumann paradigm”, the current way our present day’s computer architecture is ruled by. Von Neumann introduced the architecture of the processer and the memory being two separate pieces of hardware in the 1940s. By integrating the memory into the same hardware as the processor you begin to see context dependant processes in an energy efficient manor PLUS eliminating the bottle neck of the Bus…just like a brain.
And that seems to be one of the driving forces behind IBMs new chip, is the energy efficiency, and rightly so. They can already slap together simulate synapses and firing neuron simulations into a super computer. But even as powerful and helpful as a super computer can be, its downfall is its size, its upkeep, its administration and the amount of energy it takes to drive.
But as Dr. Dharmendra Modha, head of the SyNAPSE project (Systems of Neuromorphic Adaptive Plastic Scalable Electronics), says, the brain is not a neural network, it’s a synaptic network, if you look at the junctions between neurons (called synapses’) you would see that they outnumber the number of neurons by a factor of 10,000” What DARPA has asked the team was to demonstrate at a nano scale, low power material that captures the function of the synapse. A calculate size of 1 picojoule fitting 10,000,000,000 single synapses’ inside the space of 1 square centimeter
This interview which explains more that Dr. Modha did with Fast Company is fantastic and highly suggested.
That alone was 3 years ago.
Fast forward to today they have 2 working prototype designs, both at 45 total nanometers a piece and currently contain 256 neurons. One core contains 262,144 programmable synapses and the other contains 65,536 learning synapses. 3 years ago, it was an idea, today, it is quite the reality. What do you think 20 – 50 years will look like from now?
Sources IBM Press Release
Images: IBM Research - Almaden