Category Archives: interesting
The Best and Coolest Picture You’ll See Today
Turn this picture upside-down and be amazed!
Being Dr. House for a day
Today’s Daily Prompt asks: If you could be a famous person for a day, who would you be? Why?
If I could choose to become a famous person, I would be Dr. Gregory House. Not Hugh Laurie (the actor who played the maverick doctor), but the actual character, Dr. House. I love how intelligent he is. The way he approaches his job can be seen as extremely risky, but I admire his confidence. He is not afraid to do and say anything that may offend others. He does almost everything in his own terms. He has a brilliant, yet erratic mind. He believes he is right all the time (like all of us) and he would go to extreme measures to prove others wrong.
I am aware of how busy Dr. House’s day would be, but I don’t mind spending a day being him. I guess I would like the freedom that he earned from being such a genius. I would enjoy that day despite being dosed up on vicodin. I may even enjoy insulting my colleagues!!
Daily Prompt: Pick Your Gadget
Daily Prompt: Your local electronic store has just started selling ‘Time Machines’, ‘Anywhere Doors’ and ‘Invisibility Helmets’. You can only afford one. Which one of these would you buy and why?
Why can I only afford one? Darn!! In this fictitious scenario, why can”t I have unlimited money?
If I had to choose between the three items mentioned above, I would pick an Anywhere Door. Wouldn’t it be nice to travel anywhere in the world (or in space, for that matter) in a heartbeat? I would be able to visit my friends and family all over the world anytime I want. I can have an espresso in Venice, then stroll around Paris, have some gumbo in New Orleans, relax by a beach in the Carribean before coming back home. Well, actually, I woulldn’t have to call any particular place ‘home’. I could finally become a citizen of the world.
Using an ‘Anywhere Door’, I could finally go to the moon and other planets. I could perhaps see if there really is a heaven and/ or a hell.
The list of possibilities is endless!!
What did the others pick? Let’s find out:
The Science of Dr. Who
The Science of Dr. Who starring Prof. Brian Cox and Matt Smith (a.k.a. The 11th Dr.) is a scientific look at the beloved British programme. Enjoy!
Manchester Science Festival 2013 photo gallery
BRAINS: Mind as Matter:
Gigantic Graphene model:
Eye & I:
PIg’s brain Dissection:
Brain Bits: Research, Demonstrations and Dissection
In another one of my exploits at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Insdustry last week, I stumbled upon the ‘Brain Bits’ event. This is another great event brought about by the fabulous organisers of this year’s Science Festival, which drew to a close yesterday. In ‘Brain Bits’, various researchers set up stalls at the top floor of the museum to talk about their research and/ or products to the public. As seen on the pictures below, these people talked about topics such as Alzheimer’s disease, vision, motor skills and coordination, seizures, and more. They explained, based on current research findings, which mostly were their own, how diseases spread, develop and can be slowed down. One group of researchers actually invited the public to take part in their experiment which looked at motor skills in flies (the actual names of which escapes me!). Some also presented fascinating equipments used in brain surgery.
As a psychology graduate and a neuroscience enthusiast, I have been impressed at how these researchers and volunteeers have been able to explain their topics in ways that were accessible to everyone. As it was a free public event, the audience were of mixed ages, gender and educational background. To be able to get most of them engaged and excited is not an easy feat, but the presenters managed just fine. Here are some pictures:
Equipment to aid brain surgeons during surgery that uses MRI and CT Scan techniques:
Demonstration of how to drill holes in the skull (using a model, of course!):
Explaining the similarities and differences of brains across species:
(From the left) Brains of a pig a rat and a mouse:
Gigantic Graphene Model and Ice Lab: Manchester Science Festival, ’13
Last week, I managed to brave the weather to join the fun at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI). One of the coolest parts of this year’s Science Festival is Aravind Vijayaraghavan’s idea of building a huge model of graphene, with the help of museum visitors such as myself. Graphene- a material stronger than steel, more flexible than rubber and more conductive than rubber, is discovered in Manchester by Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov. Both scientists were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physicsin 2010 for their discovery of the said material. Here’s how we created the gigantic model:
First, we were given a template and pieces of plastic tubes and ‘joints’:
We then assemble the parts to resemble the template:
We then gave our finished ‘bit’ of the model to the people in charge, who then gave them to the people who built the model outdoor:
I never got to see the finished product, but doing my bit was a lot of fun!
Next up, I visited the Ice Lab exhibition, which is also in the same museum. This exhibition, which runs until 6 January 2014, shows the architecture and different research that are being conducted in Antartica. Visitors can learn about how the buildings and research facilities are made and what considerations are taken when planning and building them. It also gives the visitors the chance to experience the sounds and other sensations that one might experience in Antartica. Here are some pictures:
If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out Ice lab and other exhibitions at the Museum of Science and Industry at Manchester! Click here to visit their website: www.mosi.org.uk
Computer-Generated Consciousness: Holy Grail or Holy Fail?
As a part of this year’s Manchester Science Festival, The Museum of Science and Industry recently hosted a debate entitled ‘Brains and Computers’. This free event featured a discussion on whether brains are similar to computers, between Raymond Tallis, a philosopher, novelist, and a former physician whose research publications mostly focused on neuroscience and old age, and Professor Steve Furber, a distinguished academic whose work include designing the BBC Microcomputer and the ARM 32-bit RISC microprocessor. The debate was introduced and ‘chaired’ by the coolest scientist on the planet, rock guitar-wielding physicist, Dr. Mark Lewney. As a psychology graduate, neuroscience enthusiast and a guitarist, I did not hesitate to book a ticket. I ignored the horrendous weather (typical here in Manchester), and the possibility that I would be crazy tired the next morning (as the event was quite late for someone like me).
The main crux of the discussion was whether it is possible for anyone to produce an accurate computerised representation of the brain, and perhaps more importantly, consciousness. Dr. Lewney first asked Raymond Tallis to comment. Dr. Tallis was quick to answer with a resounding ‘no’. To him, it is highly unlikely for anyone to produce such a computer-simulation of consciousness. To him, consciousness is far too complex to be deduced to mere computations and algorithms. He argued that no computer in the world appears to be conscious. One might propose that certain technological equipments are able to reproduce human-like actions, such as a pocket calculator which can ‘perform’ complex calculations just like, or at times even better than, a human being. However, Dr. Tallis insisted that the calculator is merely a tool which humans use to aid us in our daily calculations. In his words, “it is still you who does the calculations, but on a pocket calculator”. Tallis extended his argument in pointing out that consciousness involves a multitude of things including people’s awareness of their surroundings, their cultural background, feelings and philosophical beliefs, to which computers (at the moment) simply have no match to humans. He also stated that even if an entity would be invented that looks like him, behaves like him and acts like him, but have no idea what it is like to be him, then that entity, whatever that might be, is still not conscious.
After Raymond Tallis’ summation of his arguments, Dr. Lewney turned to Professor Furber and asked for his opinions. It may be important to point out that Prof. Furber and his team are attempting to simulate large-scale brain functions using millions of mobile phone processors, as a part of his spiNNaker project (Spiking Neural Network Architecture). One of the SpiNNaker Project’s objective is to “provide a platform for high-performance massively parallel processing appropriate for the simulation of large-scale neural networks in real-time, as a research tool for neuroscientists…” (SpiNNaker Website). Prof. Furber admitted that creating a simulation of the brain is an incredibly challenging feat as the brain has billions of neurons. Replicating a human brain would involve hundreds/thousands of microprocessors and may require output from a power plant. If successful, this project may aid neuroscientists to find out how the brain works, and how to fix those that are ‘broken’.
Prof. Furber explained that experiments have been conducted wherein circuit boards that simulate parts of the brain were attached to robots with specially designed eyes (those that resemble human eyes) in order to look at vision and visual processing. When asked whether robots and/or computer programmes can simulate learning through rewards and punishment, Prof. Furber pointed out that it is possible to put a ‘bump’ with a sensor in front of a robot. Sensors on the bump will beep if the robot knocks something in front of it, and afterwards would be able to ‘learn’ not to do it again. He also explained that computer programmes nowadays are becoming so complex that even their own programmers do not know how they will behave- similar to a ‘conscious’ individual who is unpredictable.
Both of Prof. Fuber’s and Dr. Tallis’ arguments are persuasive, interesting and based on empirical evidence. However, althroughout the debate, I sat there wondering why they have not (at least attempted to) define consciousness. Granted that Dr. Tallis admitted that as of yet, nobody knows where consciousness lies. As a result of this lack of a consensus on a definition, there is no existing measure of consciousness. So, how would anyone know whether a robot, or indeed a human-being, plant or non-human animal, is conscious if we don’t know what it is or how to measure it? Nevertheless, the debate was still thought-provoking. Regardless of whether the SpiNNaker Project would produce a simulation of a conscious brain or not, as long as it can simulate the workings of an ideal human brain, it can still be a valuable tool.
I would personally like to thank the organisers and volunteers of the Manchester Science Festival for putting together such an amazing event!
Click HERE to see the full listings of events in this year’s Manchester Science Festival.
MOSI Welcomes You to Look Inside the Brain
What does the brain actually look like?
Do we know what each part of the brain does? If so, how?
How do brain surgeries work?
This week I have been fortunate enough to be one of the bloggers invited to a ‘personalised tour’ of the Brains: Mind As Matter exhibition at Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry. Curator Marius Kwint, neuroscientist Prof. Stuart Allan and artist Daksha Patel guided us through this amazing exhibition which tells the story of how our knowledge of the brain developed over time and what we have done to the brain. The exhibition begins by showing the audience how brains (and in turn people), were classified according to the size of their heads- an extremely prejudistic and not to mention, flawed approach. Then it shows how people from Descartes to Cajal to Jeff Lichtman have attempted to represent the anatomy of the brain. Lastly, it tell us about the different surgical procedure such as trephination (drilling holes in people’s skulls), most of which are accentuated by photographs of people who have undergone such procedures. Gory though as it may seem, but such vivid truth-telling is what drew me even more to take a closer look, twice if not three times at each display.
The Brains exhibition highlights the interconnection between our culture and our understanding of the brain. However, what intrigued me the most is the fact that despite the enormous amount of progress and knowledge that we have accumulated through years of research, we still know very little about that 1.5 kilograms of mass that control our lives. The exhibit left me with a rush of excitement stemming from the realisation that there is so much more to discover about the brain, and that I, personally, can take part in these discoveries.
CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING LINKS TO FIND OUT MORE:
Museum of Science and Industry
Brains: The Mind As Matter (MOSI)
Brains: The Wellcome Collection