Archive for the ‘Brazil’ Category

In desolate caves throughout Brazil live insects that copulate for days, the female’s penetrating erectile organ sticking fast in a reluctant male’s genital chamber until he offers a gift of nutritious semen. Neotrogla seems to be unique among species with reversed sex roles — with choosy males and aggressive, promiscuous females — in also having swapped anatomy, researchers report.

Not all animal species have a male penis, but because the evolution of body parts usually works through slow modification of existing structures, there would need to be a good reason for a female to develop a penetrating organ, says entomologist Kazunori Yoshizawa of Hokkaido University in Japan, a co-author of the study.

Yoshizawa and his colleagues think that they have found that reason in Neotrogla, which was first described in 2012. The insects were originally spotted in Brazilian caves by ecologist Rodrigo Ferreira from the Federal University of Lavras in Brazil. Entomologist Charles Lienhard at the Geneva Museum of Natural History in Switzerland recognized them as a new genus — and also as possessing unusual genitalia. The team’s work describing the reproductive practices of four separate species of Neotrogla is published today in Current Biology.

When the flea-sized winged insects mate, the female mounts the male and penetrates deep into a thin genital opening in his back. Membranes in her organ swell to lock her in, and multiple spiky spines act as grappling hooks to anchor her tightly to the male. (When researchers tried to pull apart two mating insects, the female was gripping so tightly that the male was accidentally ripped in half, leaving his genitalia still attached to the female.) The tip of the female’s penis fits neatly into the male’s genitalia to allow her to receive a large, teardrop-shaped sperm capsule over their 40–70 hours of copulation.

The key to the anatomy and role reversal might be simple hunger. Neotrogla species live in extremely dry caves, says Ferreira, where there is not much in the way of food, save for bat guano and the occasional dead bat. A female needs enough nourishment to make eggs and reproduce, though, so she likely found another source of nutrition, Yoshizawa says: her mate’s semen capsule. In some other insects, males expend personal resources to create highly sought-after ‘nuptial gifts’ of sperm and nutrients that they bestow upon their mate during copulation. Although it’s not clear whether Neotrogla couples do likewise, the females accept seminal gifts and drain them even when they’re too young to reproduce, Yoshizawa says, so it’s obvious they’re using the sperm capsules for more than mere reproduction.

If Neotrogla males need to spend valuable resources producing their sperm packets, it’s likely they would be choosy about their mates, Yoshizawa says, which would help explain why the females have evolved a penis well designed to hold down reluctant mates long enough to wring out all their gifts. This might be a combination unique to Neotrogla, he says: Although other animals have swapped sex roles where the female is the promiscuous aggressor (the scorpion fly, for example), and others have swapped anatomy where the female penetrates the male (seahorses, for example), none appears to have developed both reversed sex roles and a female penis with grappling hooks.

The authors make a “convincing case” that this female penis is associated with sex-role reversal where males are choosy, as would be expected under sexual-selection theory, says William Eberhard, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Costa Rica in San Pedro.

If Neotrogla can be observed in captivity, they might be good models for studying how and why male and female roles and anatomy can get switched around during copulation, he adds.

Yoshizawa and his colleagues are now working to establish a healthy population in the lab, but the biggest challenge will be finding a suitable food to replace the cave-bat droppings, Yoshizawa says. Flour, yeast and skimmed milk are all under consideration. to replace the cave-bat droppings.

http://www.nature.com/news/female-insect-uses-spiky-penis-to-take-charge-1.15064

Thanks to Dr. Lutter for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

1. Buford, Wyoming
1 -  Buford
Formerly sporting a bustling population of two, Buford now only has a single resident.

2. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
2 - garbage
The Patch is a basically immobile, gigantic mass of trash out in the middle of the Pacific. Most estimates put its size—composed entirely of plastic bottles, chemical sludge, and basically any other kind of debris you can imagine—larger than the state of Texas. You’d probably rather go to Texas.

3. Alnwick Poison Garden, England
3 - posion gardcen
The Alnwick Poison Garden is pretty much what you’d think it is: a garden full of plants that can kill you (among many other things). Some of the plants are so dangerous that they have to be kept behind bars. It’s not exactly your typical stroll through a botanical garden.

4. Ramree Island, Burma
4 - bur,a
Ramree Island may be in the beautiful Burma, but nothing about this place is beautiful. It’s actually just a giant swamp full of thousands of saltwater crocodiles—which are the deadliest in the world—plus mosquitos loaded with malaria, oh, and venomous scorpions. Also, there was a six-week long battle here during WWII, in which only twenty Japanese soliders survived… out of 1000. And most were killed by the wildlife.

5. The Zone of Alienation, Ukraine
5 - ukraine
Although you probably wouldn’t want to vacation in Pripyat either, the Zone of Alienation is the 19-mile decommissioned perimeter surrounding the grounds of the Chernobyl incident. It’s administered by a branch of government specifically so that no-one is allowed into it, but there are a few hundred residents who refused to move. What’s wrong with those people? You probably don’t want to know

6. Ilha de Queimada Grande, Brazil
6 - brazil
Sorry to tell you this, but Ilha de Queimada Grande isn’t a fantastical island getaway. It’s actually an island full of thousands of snakes. Its name literally means, “Snake Island.” It has the highest concentration of snakes in the world, with 1-5 golden lanceheads per square meter—oh, and they’re very poisonous: when designs were drawn up to build a plantation on the island, all the scouts were killed.

7. St. Helena
7 - st helena
If you somehow end up in the same place where Napoleon was imprisoned and spent his final days, things are probably going wrong. Oh yeah, and there’s no functioning airport, either. The only way you can get on or off the island is via container ships from South Africa. Which only come every few months.

8. Izu Island, Japan
8 - japan
The Izus are a group of volcanic islands located off the southern coast of Japan’s Honshu island. They’re technically part of Tokyo, except because they’re extremely volcanic, the air constantly smells of sulfur and residents have been evacuated twice—in 1953 and 2000—because of “dangerously high levels of gas.” Although allowed back in 2005, inhabitants are now required to carry gas masks on their person at all times.

9. Mud Volcanoes of Azerbaijan
9 - mud volcano
Sure, mud volcanoes aren’t nearly as dangerous as their cousins of the magmatic variety, but when they do actually erupt, it’s not exactly a pretty sight. In 2001, a new island grew out of the Caspian Sea, due to an increase in volcanic activity—right nearby where hundreds of these bad boys are. Generally, they go off every twenty years, and when they do, they shoot flames “hundreds of meters into the sky” and deposit tons of mud into the immediate area.

http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/AVvBxP

no numbers

The Pirahã are an indigenous people, numbering around 700, living along the banks of the Maici River in the jungle of northwest Brazil. Their language, also called Pirahã, is so unusual in so many ways that it was profiled in 2007 in a 12,000-word piece in the New Yorker by John Colapinto, who wrote:

Unrelated to any other extant tongue, and based on just eight consonants and three vowels, Pirahã has one of the simplest sound systems known. Yet it possesses such a complex array of tones, stresses, and syllable lengths that its speakers can dispense with their vowels and consonants altogether and sing, hum, or whistle conversations.

Among Pirahã’s many peculiarities is an almost complete lack of numeracy, an extremely rare linguistic trait of which there are only a few documented cases. The language contains no words at all for discrete numbers and only three that approximate some notion of quantity—hói, a “small size or amount,” hoí, a “somewhat larger size or amount,” and baágiso, which can mean either to “cause to come together” or “a bunch.”

With no way to express exact integers, the obvious question is: How do the Pirahã count? More pragmatically, how do they ask for two of something instead of just one? The answer—according to some of the more recent research on anumeracy, published by anthropological linguist Caleb Everett in the journal Cognitive Science—suggests, almost inconceivably, that they don’t.

Everett, the son of Christian missionaries turned linguists, lived on and off with the Pirahã during his early childhood. His parents, he told me, speak Pirahã as fluently as any Westerners ever have, though for a non-native speaker to master the language is a near impossibility. A couple of years ago, Everett traveled back to the Pirahã villages to run a few very simple experiments.

For one test, he would lay down on a table a line of evenly spaced items, say batteries, and ask the Pirahã to make a second line just like the first. For another, he would show someone a line of items and then hide it from view. Again, he would ask for a second line just like the first. In both cases, no mistakes were made as long as the lines were just two or three items long. But, as Everett wrote in his paper, “The proportion of correct responses generally drops significantly for numbers exceeding 2 or 3.” This was true for all tasks, including a non-visual test that involved clapping. English speakers, on the other hand, make no errors at all, except when a relatively long line of items, say seven or more, is shown quickly and then hidden. We can only count so fast, after all, but the Pirahã appear not to be counting at all—because, well, how could they? Instead, they’re employing what Everett calls an “analog estimation strategy,” which works well for a few items but breaks down beyond that.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then perhaps the Pirahã never needed numbers, either because precise counting is not culturally valued or because that value has a sufficient, anumeric workaround. Nothing about the Pirahã’s self-contained way of life seems to require quantity recognition over three, says Everett, a fact that’s not lost on outsiders, who sometimes take advantage of them when trading goods. Attempts over the years to teach number words and basic arithmetic to the Pirahã have met with little success, in large part because they’re uninterested. In fact, the Pirahã have a term for all languages not their own; it translates as “crooked head,” which is intended as a “clear pejorative,” as Colapinto points out:

The Pirahã consider all forms of human discourse other than their own to be laughably inferior, and they are unique among Amazonian peoples in remaining monolingual.

In our increasingly data-driven culture, where we reincarnate ourselves more and more as spreadsheets, anumeracy is unthinkable. Many fear, amid the “advanced stats” revolution in all aspects of life, that what it means to be and feel human is forever changing, and not for the better. It’s perhaps comforting to know, then, that while we’re busy charting our heart rate and measuring our intake and poring over the wins above replacement values for our fantasy league, the Pirahã, immune to the relentless tyranny of numbers, will simply enjoy the game.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2013/10/16/piraha_cognitive_anumeracy_in_a_language_without_numbers.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

fALLING-COW-KILLS-MAN-facebook

The one-tonne cow was grazing on a hill behind the small house, in the town of Caratinga, when it stepped onto the asbestos roof, which collapsed under its weight.

Joao Maria de Souza, 45, was lying in bed when the animal fell on him.

He was taken to hospital and died the day after, reportedly of internal bleeding.

Mr Souza was conscious and appeared to be in a good condition, but he had to wait too long to be seen by a doctor, relatives said.

Local media says this is the third such incident in the region in the past three years.

There were no casualties in the two previous incidents.

In the first occasion, there was no one inside the house when the cow fell through the roof.

In the second incident, a baby and a small child were sleeping next to the spot where the animal fell, in what was described at time as a miraculous escape.

Caratinga is in a hilly area of Minas Gerais, a Brazilian state traditionally known as a cattle raising and dairy producing region.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-23303998

soccer

soccer2

soccer-ball-dribbler-death

Richard Swanson, 42, planned to walk, soccer ball at his feet, from Seattle to Sao Paulo, Brazil, to make it in time for next year’s international soccer tournament. But Swanson was mowed down by a pickup truck Tuesday morning south of Lincoln City, Ore., only two weeks and a few hundred miles into his journey.

“It is with a heavy heart to notify you that Richard Swanson passed on this morning,” someone posted on his “Breakaway Brazil” Facebook page used to document the trek. “His team, family, friends, and loved ones will miss him and love him dearly. You made it to Brazil in our hearts, Richard. Team Richard.”

Described as an “avid runner, soccer player, and all-around lover of the Pacific Northwest,” Swanson planned to visit 11 countries during his one-year-plus trip south. Along the way, Swanson planned to dribble an “indestructible” soccer ball to promote the One World Futbol Project, a charity that donates such durable balls to people in disadvantaged communities. The ball was found among his belongings in the crash wreckage on U.S. Highway 101.

A graphic designer and former private investigator, Swanson said he was laid off but wanted to live his dream of attending a World Cup tournament. “All these pieces just started to come together in a way that — it almost felt that, it felt natural, it felt that I was doing what I should be doing, that this was my next leg in my life,” he said in a video about himself before he started.

Swanson was soliciting monetary donations and asking friends and people online to give him a couch to sleep on as he journeyed south. He documented the trek on Facebook and had a map on his website that tracked his movements via GPS. On Monday night, Swanson posted a photo of him relaxing in his Lincoln City host’s hot tub. The next morning, he posted a shot of a bacon, eggs and potatoes breakfast he described as “stick to your ribs … to keep me fueled as I head to Newport.”

The last GPS transmission Tuesday showed him traveling 2.8 miles per hour along the Oregon Coast Highway, about 20 miles north of Newport. Swanson leaves behind two sons, 18 and 22, both of whom posted remembrances to his page.

“We love you dad..with all our hearts!” Devin Swanson wrote. “You are a inspiration to all to continue doing what you love! One day..I will continue your journey in your name!”

Read more: http://www.nydailynews.com/sports/more-sports/man-dribble-soccer-ball-brazil-killed-oregon-article-1.1344242#ixzz2TMwK2J7R

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

sleep-paralysis-still-130329

Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

When filmmaker Carla MacKinnon started waking up several times a week unable to move, with the sense that a disturbing presence was in the room with her, she didn’t call up her local ghost hunter. She got researching. Now, that research is becoming a short film and multiplatform art project exploring the strange and spooky phenomenon of sleep paralysis. The film, supported by the Wellcome Trust and set to screen at the Royal College of Arts in London, will debut in May.

Sleep paralysis happens when people become conscious while their muscles remain in the ultra-relaxed state that prevents them from acting out their dreams. The experience can be quite terrifying, with many people hallucinating a malevolent presence nearby, or even an attacker suffocating them. Surveys put the number of sleep paralysis sufferers between about 5 percent and 60 percent of the population. “I was getting quite a lot of sleep paralysis over the summer, quite frequently, and I became quite interested in what was happening, what medically or scientifically, it was all about,” MacKinnon said.

Her questions led her to talk with psychologists and scientists, as well as to people who experience the phenomenon. Myths and legends about sleep paralysis persist all over the globe, from the incubus and succubus (male and female demons, respectively) of European tales to a pink dolphin-turned-nighttime seducer in Brazil. Some of the stories MacKinnon uncovered reveal why these myths are so chilling.

One man told her about his frequent sleep paralysis episodes, during which he’d experience extremely realistic hallucinations of a young child, skipping around the bed and singing nursery rhymes. Sometimes, the child would sit on his pillow and talk to him. One night, the tot asked the man a personal question. When he refused to answer, the child transformed into a “horrendous demon,” MacKinnon said.

For another man, who had the sleep disorder narcolepsy (which can make sleep paralysis more common), his dream world clashed with the real world in a horrifying way. His sleep paralysis episodes typically included hallucinations that someone else was in his house or his room — he’d hear voices or banging around. One night, he awoke in a paralyzed state and saw a figure in his room as usual. “He suddenly realizes something is different,” MacKinnon said. “He suddenly realizes that he is in sleep paralysis, and his eyes are open, but the person who is in the room is in his room in real life.” The figure was no dream demon, but an actual burglar.

Sleep paralysis experiences are almost certainly behind the myths of the incubus and succubus, demons thought to have sex with unsuspecting humans in their sleep. In many cases, MacKinnon said, the science of sleep paralysis explains these myths. The feeling of suffocating or someone pushing down on the chest that often occurs during sleep paralysis may be a result of the automatic breathing pattern people fall into during sleep. When they become conscious while still in this breathing pattern, people may try to bring their breathing under voluntary control, leading to the feeling of suffocating. Add to that the hallucinations that seem to seep in from the dream world, and it’s no surprise that interpretations lend themselves to demons, ghosts or even alien abduction, MacKinnon said.

What’s more, MacKinnon said, sleep paralysis is more likely when your sleep is disrupted in some way — perhaps because you’ve been traveling, you’re too hot or too cold, or you’re sleeping in an unfamiliar or spooky place. Those tendencies may make it more likely that a person will experience sleep paralysis when already vulnerable to thoughts of ghosts and ghouls. “It’s interesting seeing how these scientific narratives and the more psychoanalytical or psychological narratives can support each other rather than conflict,” MacKinnon said.

Since working on the project, MacKinnon has been able to bring her own sleep paralysis episodes under control — or at least learned to calm herself during them. The trick, she said, is to use episodes like a form of research, by paying attention to details like how her hands feel and what position she’s in. This sort of mindfulness tends to make scary hallucinations blink away, she said. “Rationalizing it is incredibly counterintuitive,” she said. “It took me a really long time to stop believing that it was real, because it feels so incredibly real.”

http://www.livescience.com/28325-spooky-film-explores-sleep-paralysis.html

This video shows a woman trapped on the tracks below a commuter rail platform in Brazil escape within an inch of her life from an oncoming train. Two men pulled the woman to safety less than a second before the train speeds by at the Corinthians-Itaquera station in Sao Paulo.

Bystanders said she jumped onto the tracks to retrieve her dropped cellphone, but couldn’t climb back out.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/WeirdNews/2013/04/02/20704421.html

brain

Behind a locked door in a white-walled basement in a research building in Tempe, Ariz., a monkey sits stone-still in a chair, eyes locked on a computer screen. From his head protrudes a bundle of wires; from his mouth, a plastic tube. As he stares, a picture of a green cursor on the black screen floats toward the corner of a cube. The monkey is moving it with his mind.

The monkey, a rhesus macaque named Oscar, has electrodes implanted in his motor cortex, detecting electrical impulses that indicate mental activity and translating them to the movement of the ball on the screen. The computer isn’t reading his mind, exactly — Oscar’s own brain is doing a lot of the lifting, adapting itself by trial and error to the delicate task of accurately communicating its intentions to the machine. (When Oscar succeeds in controlling the ball as instructed, the tube in his mouth rewards him with a sip of his favorite beverage, Crystal Light.) It’s not technically telekinesis, either, since that would imply that there’s something paranormal about the process. It’s called a “brain-computer interface” (BCI). And it just might represent the future of the relationship between human and machine.

Stephen Helms Tillery’s laboratory at Arizona State University is one of a growing number where researchers are racing to explore the breathtaking potential of BCIs and a related technology, neuroprosthetics. The promise is irresistible: from restoring sight to the blind, to helping the paralyzed walk again, to allowing people suffering from locked-in syndrome to communicate with the outside world. In the past few years, the pace of progress has been accelerating, delivering dazzling headlines seemingly by the week.

At Duke University in 2008, a monkey named Idoya walked on a treadmill, causing a robot in Japan to do the same. Then Miguel Nicolelis stopped the monkey’s treadmill — and the robotic legs kept walking, controlled by Idoya’s brain. At Andrew Schwartz’s lab at the University of Pittsburgh in December 2012, a quadriplegic woman named Jan Scheuermann learned to feed herself chocolate by mentally manipulating a robotic arm. Just last month, Nicolelis’ lab set up what it billed as the first brain-to-brain interface, allowing a rat in North Carolina to make a decision based on sensory data beamed via Internet from the brain of a rat in Brazil.

So far the focus has been on medical applications — restoring standard-issue human functions to people with disabilities. But it’s not hard to imagine the same technologies someday augmenting capacities. If you can make robotic legs walk with your mind, there’s no reason you can’t also make them run faster than any sprinter. If you can control a robotic arm, you can control a robotic crane. If you can play a computer game with your mind, you can, theoretically at least, fly a drone with your mind.

It’s tempting and a bit frightening to imagine that all of this is right around the corner, given how far the field has already come in a short time. Indeed, Nicolelis — the media-savvy scientist behind the “rat telepathy” experiment — is aiming to build a robotic bodysuit that would allow a paralyzed teen to take the first kick of the 2014 World Cup. Yet the same factor that has made the explosion of progress in neuroprosthetics possible could also make future advances harder to come by: the almost unfathomable complexity of the human brain.

From I, Robot to Skynet, we’ve tended to assume that the machines of the future would be guided by artificial intelligence — that our robots would have minds of their own. Over the decades, researchers have made enormous leaps in artificial intelligence (AI), and we may be entering an age of “smart objects” that can learn, adapt to, and even shape our habits and preferences. We have planes that fly themselves, and we’ll soon have cars that do the same. Google has some of the world’s top AI minds working on making our smartphones even smarter, to the point that they can anticipate our needs. But “smart” is not the same as “sentient.” We can train devices to learn specific behaviors, and even out-think humans in certain constrained settings, like a game of Jeopardy. But we’re still nowhere close to building a machine that can pass the Turing test, the benchmark for human-like intelligence. Some experts doubt we ever will.

Philosophy aside, for the time being the smartest machines of all are those that humans can control. The challenge lies in how best to control them. From vacuum tubes to the DOS command line to the Mac to the iPhone, the history of computing has been a progression from lower to higher levels of abstraction. In other words, we’ve been moving from machines that require us to understand and directly manipulate their inner workings to machines that understand how we work and respond readily to our commands. The next step after smartphones may be voice-controlled smart glasses, which can intuit our intentions all the more readily because they see what we see and hear what we hear.

The logical endpoint of this progression would be computers that read our minds, computers we can control without any physical action on our part at all. That sounds impossible. After all, if the human brain is so hard to compute, how can a computer understand what’s going on inside it?

It can’t. But as it turns out, it doesn’t have to — not fully, anyway. What makes brain-computer interfaces possible is an amazing property of the brain called neuroplasticity: the ability of neurons to form new connections in response to fresh stimuli. Our brains are constantly rewiring themselves to allow us to adapt to our environment. So when researchers implant electrodes in a part of the brain that they expect to be active in moving, say, the right arm, it’s not essential that they know in advance exactly which neurons will fire at what rate. When the subject attempts to move the robotic arm and sees that it isn’t quite working as expected, the person — or rat or monkey — will try different configurations of brain activity. Eventually, with time and feedback and training, the brain will hit on a solution that makes use of the electrodes to move the arm.

That’s the principle behind such rapid progress in brain-computer interface and neuroprosthetics. Researchers began looking into the possibility of reading signals directly from the brain in the 1970s, and testing on rats began in the early 1990s. The first big breakthrough for humans came in Georgia in 1997, when a scientist named Philip Kennedy used brain implants to allow a “locked in” stroke victim named Johnny Ray to spell out words by moving a cursor with his thoughts. (It took him six exhausting months of training to master the process.) In 2008, when Nicolelis got his monkey at Duke to make robotic legs run a treadmill in Japan, it might have seemed like mind-controlled exoskeletons for humans were just another step or two away. If he succeeds in his plan to have a paralyzed youngster kick a soccer ball at next year’s World Cup, some will pronounce the cyborg revolution in full swing.

Schwartz, the Pittsburgh researcher who helped Jan Scheuermann feed herself chocolate in December, is optimistic that neuroprosthetics will eventually allow paralyzed people to regain some mobility. But he says that full control over an exoskeleton would require a more sophisticated way to extract nuanced information from the brain. Getting a pair of robotic legs to walk is one thing. Getting robotic limbs to do everything human limbs can do may be exponentially more complicated. “The challenge of maintaining balance and staying upright on two feet is a difficult problem, but it can be handled by robotics without a brain. But if you need to move gracefully and with skill, turn and step over obstacles, decide if it’s slippery outside — that does require a brain. If you see someone go up and kick a soccer ball, the essential thing to ask is, ‘OK, what would happen if I moved the soccer ball two inches to the right?'” The idea that simple electrodes could detect things as complex as memory or cognition, which involve the firing of billions of neurons in patterns that scientists can’t yet comprehend, is far-fetched, Schwartz adds.

That’s not the only reason that companies like Apple and Google aren’t yet working on devices that read our minds (as far as we know). Another one is that the devices aren’t portable. And then there’s the little fact that they require brain surgery.

A different class of brain-scanning technology is being touted on the consumer market and in the media as a way for computers to read people’s minds without drilling into their skulls. It’s called electroencephalography, or EEG, and it involves headsets that press electrodes against the scalp. In an impressive 2010 TED Talk, Tan Le of the consumer EEG-headset company Emotiv Lifescience showed how someone can use her company’s EPOC headset to move objects on a computer screen.

Skeptics point out that these devices can detect only the crudest electrical signals from the brain itself, which is well-insulated by the skull and scalp. In many cases, consumer devices that claim to read people’s thoughts are in fact relying largely on physical signals like skin conductivity and tension of the scalp or eyebrow muscles.

Robert Oschler, a robotics enthusiast who develops apps for EEG headsets, believes the more sophisticated consumer headsets like the Emotiv EPOC may be the real deal in terms of filtering out the noise to detect brain waves. Still, he says, there are limits to what even the most advanced, medical-grade EEG devices can divine about our cognition. He’s fond of an analogy that he attributes to Gerwin Schalk, a pioneer in the field of invasive brain implants. The best EEG devices, he says, are “like going to a stadium with a bunch of microphones: You can’t hear what any individual is saying, but maybe you can tell if they’re doing the wave.” With some of the more basic consumer headsets, at this point, “it’s like being in a party in the parking lot outside the same game.”

It’s fairly safe to say that EEG headsets won’t be turning us into cyborgs anytime soon. But it would be a mistake to assume that we can predict today how brain-computer interface technology will evolve. Just last month, a team at Brown University unveiled a prototype of a low-power, wireless neural implant that can transmit signals to a computer over broadband. That could be a major step forward in someday making BCIs practical for everyday use. Meanwhile, researchers at Cornell last week revealed that they were able to use fMRI, a measure of brain activity, to detect which of four people a research subject was thinking about at a given time. Machines today can read our minds in only the most rudimentary ways. But such advances hint that they may be able to detect and respond to more abstract types of mental activity in the always-changing future.

http://www.ydr.com/living/ci_22800493/researchers-explore-connecting-brain-machines

poison-310113

A Brazilian woman has confessed to trying to kill her husband by putting poison in her vagina and urging him to have oral sex with her, a news agency claims.

The bizarre murder plot, dubbed “cunning cunnilingus” by one commentator, took place in the city of Sao de Jose Rio Preto.

The intended victim, a 43-year-old man who has not been named, says his wife tried to lure him into bed and encouraged him to perform oral sex on her. His suspicions were aroused when he noticed an unusual odour emanating from her private parts and, fearing she was unwell, took her to hospital, Brazil’s Tvi24 reports. Medical tests revealed she had doused her vagina with enough of the unspecified toxin to kill both her husband and herself.

Confronted with the test results the woman reportedly confessed to her crime. It is believed she hatched the bizarre plot after asking her husband for a divorce, a request he now seems rather more likely to acquiesce to. Tvi24 says the woman has received medical treatment and sources claim her husband plans to sue her for attempted murder.

Vagina homicide is, needless to say, a highly unusual crime and a local police officer called Walter Coacino Junior has reportedly ordered “further investigation” due to the “nature” of the case. The woman may still face murder charges, he said.

The Jezebel website points out that “poisoning someone through your vagina is not that good of an idea” because “your vagina is fairly absorbent and shoving a bunch of poison in it will probably hurt you as much as it hurts the person you’re trying to kill.”

But Salon’s Katie McDonough says the fact the man rushed his wife to hospital despite her death-by-vagina plotting suggests “chivalry is not dead”.

Read more: http://www.theweek.co.uk/crime/51287/brazilian-woman-laced-vagina-poison-kill-husband#ixzz2K49Hbo72