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Mark Bruce
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My Blood Pressure was 155/98

For those that don't know, the very upper-end of normal blood pressure is 140/90. So 155/98 classifies as (mild) hypertension, and prolonged hypertension carries significantly increased risks for heart disease, strokes, and a wide range of other unpleasant and life-shortening things

I booked myself in to see a GP a couple of weeks ago for no reason aside from wanting to get myself a health check-up and get a battery of blood tests to check the levels of various key components in my blood - more out of interest and curiosity sake and forcing myself to be ever-more-proactive about my health. The GP took my blood pressure while I was in there and asked me if I was aware of any reasons for why it would be high? We were both surprised by the 155/98 reading. 

I eat better and healthier than anyone else I know, do intense 40 minute interval training sessions 5 nights a week, have a resting heart rate of 50 bpm, weigh 74kg at 5'11", get plenty of sleep, and am generally the fittest, strongest, and healthiest I've been in my life. And there is no family history of heart disease or high blood pressure. This high blood pressure reading was a shock. 

I wondered if it was stress-related, admitting that the last couple of months have been very busy at work and home, even though I didn't feel overly stressed. The GP said he'd retake my blood pressure when I went back to collect my blood results. I also wondered if overtraining might be the cause, due too the regular intense interval training for prolonged periods, but case studies suggested I wasn't exercising anywhere near the extreme levels that induce overtraining. Of the 45 different parameters - elements, enzymes, vitamins, cell counts, etc - measured in my blood all were within normal healthy ranges. 

But in the interim I decided to take matters into my own hands, which should come as no surprise to anyone reading this. I read up on hypertension (obviously), purchased a blood pressure monitor (in the image below) from a local store, and started collecting regular blood pressure data over the course of the following week or so. I took readings at the same time every morning, the same time (roughly) every afternoon, and the same time every night and begun to fill out a spreadsheet to help analyse the data. 

Questions to ask were: how much difference did time of day make? How consistent were the readings? Was work really making me stressed? 

You can check out the spreadsheet I made here:

Raw data collected at different times and days for SYStolic and DIAstolic readings is on the first tab. The other tabs have morning, afternoon, and evening trends, as well as SYS and DIA comparisons and finally a combined trend of all readings over the 9 days I collected data for. 

In summary: the data show that it was all a false alarm. My blood pressure is absolutely fine and spends most of the time in an optimal range. There was just one afternoon where it popped over the top of the normal range to 145/93 but everything else was at normal or optimal levels. I exercised and ate as normal throughout the week. The follow-up reading by the GP showed a normal afternoon value and he looked at my data and agreed that everything was fine. 

A few concerns:
- Accuracy of the device. After the first couple of days I took 3 consecutive measurements and averaged them. This means the data for the first couple of days isn't strictly comparable to the rest. 
- Method compliance. I sometimes didn't rest for the complete 5 minute recommended period before taking a reading because time, especially in the afternoon was often a factor. 

I'm glad it was a false alarm but if you haven't had a proper health check-up in a while to get some data on your blood composition and pressure then you might want to consider arranging a time with your GP. Peace of mind is worth a lot. And being proactive about one's health and always mindful of preventing health complications before they occur is always a superior strategy. I only hope that sooner, rather than later, we have the tools and technology available that allow us to cheaply and easily collect this data at home as often as we like; waiting a week or more for health data is archaic. 

It is likely that one of the generations now alive will be the last mortal generation. Live long enough to live indefinitely. 
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Fixx died of obstructive heart disease. His heart was mostly blocked with plaque that developed in an attempt to repair damage done by his high carb diet. Although he was born with a larger than normal heart, the low protein in his diet probably further reduced the actual muscle function of his heart.
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 47/2015.
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Engineered blood cells, Mitochondrial rejuvenation, Genomic brain expression, Quantum entanglement spacetime, Molecular nanomotors, Boosting human memory, Functional vocal tissues, New carbon materials, Cyborg plants, Extreme laser heating. 

1. Engineering Potent Blood Cells
First up, liposomes loaded with a certain protein, when injected into mice, attach to natural killer white blood cells and significantly boost their activity and ability to find and destroy cancer cells residing throughout lymph nodes, completely eliminating lymph node metastases This builds on prior work that achieved the same result in the blood stream and will hopefully enter human clinical trials soon. In related news new techniques for editing blood-forming stem cells have been developed, which result in repopulating an animal’s blood and immune system with different cells that all carry the desired gene edits for treating disease or other purpose

2. Mitochondrial Rejuvenation & Better iPSCs
Cells undergo mitochondrial rejuvenation, clearing mitochondrial damage associated with aging, when reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem cells - a process that occurs during embryonic development. Building on this insight new work as developed an improved method for generating better induced pluripotent stem cells via somatic cell reprogramming This resulted from identifying a new protein active in helping oocyte reprogramming be more effective than somatic cell reprogramming, and demonstrating that adding this protein to the conventional mix of somatic cell reprogramming factors serves to enhance the somatic reprogramming and produce stem cells that are more embryonic-like; more versatile, useful, and powerful. 

3. Decoding Genetic Patterns in Human Brains
The Allen Brain Institute made a major announcement with the results of a large study that investigated how gene expression varies across hundreds of functionally distinct brain regions in different human brains and so allowing patterns of gene expression that we all share to be identified; from 20,000 genes there were only 32 distinct expression patterns Other findings include (i) genes for neurons being mostly conserved between humans and mice, while genes for supporting glial cells showing larger differences, and (ii) gene expression in the neocortex is correlated with functional connectivity revealed by Connectome Project data. 

4. Linking Quantum Entanglement and Spacetime
Recent work in theoretical physics seeks to demonstrate profound links between the phenomenon of quantum entanglement and the fundamental underlying nature of spacetime and gravity This builds on earlier work involving particular 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional models of Universes and showing them to be equivalent, in which complexities in one can be studied in a much simpler form in the other. Some of the new ideas to come out of this include a general relationship between the geometry of spacetime and entanglement, and that the connection in a wormhole and that in quantum entanglement is the same thing at different scales. There are fascinating linkages to quantum information and computation but still much work to be done to prove that these models align to the real Universe. 

5. Light-Driven Molecular Nanomotors
A 244 atom molecular nanomotor that can be powered by light has been synthesised and demonstrated Each revolution of the molecular propellor moves the molecule forward in solution by 18nm and they can run at one million revolutions per second, covering about 2.5cm in that time even while being buffeted by molecules in the surrounding solution; fluorescent tags allowed individual nanomotors to be tracked with a microscope. Future work might assemble multiple motors to a particular cargo to transport larger loads, as well as mechanisms to facilitate steering and direction; alternatively creating an array of the motors on a surface might enable a nanomolecular stage upon which other molecules and surfaces can be transported quickly with precision. 

6. Boosting Human Memory and Cognition
A neuroprosthesis developed to compensate for memory loss and tested successfully in rats and monkeys has now passed the first tests in human patients, using a custom algorithm to reestablish communication between important brain regions at least 80% of the time with more optimisation to follow Recent work also uncovered finer details on how synaptic connections are strengthened between neurons and the different, important roles played by both post-synaptic and pre-synaptic neurons and suggesting new mechanisms by which this can be artificially targeted Finally, reducing the activity of the brain’s stress circuitry appears to reduce Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology and prevent cognitive impairment in mouse models

7. Growing Functional Vocal Cord Tissue
Functional vocal cord tissue has been successfully grown in the laboratory for the first time; the lead scientist presents very well in the embedded video. This represented a difficult bioengineering challenge given the many fine physical and mechanical requirements that healthy vocal cords must embody. The process involved harvesting cells from the mucosa of vocal cords from patients, then incubating them for two weeks in a collagen scaffold and nutrient bath; physical and molecular testing showed the tissue to be very similar to normal tissue while testing in dog larynges showed near identical sound production and vibration patterns and grafting in mice was also a success. Human trials should occur at some point. 

8. Carbon Materials Development
A breakthrough in the production of graphene has occurred with the ability to produce large sheets of graphene using the same cheap copper foil used to manufacture lithium-ion batteries The process produces graphene 100-times cheaper than previously possible and extends chemical-vapour-deposition fabrication methods. In related news diamond nanothreads - one dimensional diamond crystals - show unexpected versatility (in simulations) by avoiding the brittleness that arises with length of the molecular chain via the introduction of malleable defects that act as hinges and convey useful flexibility

9. Growing Plants with Embedded Circuits
Living roses have been created with tiny self-assembled circuits up to 20cm long threaded through their vascular systems The team were also able to create organic electrochemical transistors with the self-assembling conductive polymer they used to grow the circuits and hope to incorporate sensors in future to create plants with embedded nervous and computational systems that might be able to respond in programmed ways to various stimuli. Early days and still unclear what the full application space will be. 

10. Extreme Heating with Lasers
A new proposed heating mechanism uses lasers to heat certain materials to ten million degrees in a tiny fraction (10^-15) of a second The method sidesteps typical indirect heating methods with lasers that impart energy to electrons on a material that then impart energy onto ions and atoms to heat the material up, and instead uses high-intensity lasers to impart an electrostatic shockwave in a material designed to have two distinct types of ions, both of which are directly accelerated at different rates and quickly generate huge amounts of friction and heat. This was an interesting mechanism to discover but still needs experimental verification to be applicable to fusion and other applications. 

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Well that was quick

Dived into the new G+ layout for the first time tonight. Jumped back out after 10 minutes to the old style. I do like the look and design of the new G+; crisp, clean, modern . . . and consistent. But it is completely unusable to me in the current incarnation.

Terrible Terrible Filtering

The key thing I need - ABOVE ALL ELSE - is to be able to very quickly jump into, exclusively, one or another dedicated circle-streams that I have set up, to quickly filter the main stream to just that which I have time for. Straight up the new design does not allow this and is almost useless, functionality-wise. You need to go into Settings and click that little toggle to make Circle streams appear in navigation. But this only improves the situation by an infinitesimal amount, because when you click to drop down that menu and select specific circles it only shows a small subset of them and for me it didn't show the main circles I spend all my time in. Useless. 

Going into circles to move them around and reorder them I find that no, unfortunately they are static and fixed, so no quick navigation to my main circles of interest. I feel a little sick in my stomach at this point, realising with dread that this new design will become permanent at some point and be completely useless to me. 

So I go back to old G+ version, back into circles as normal and find that I can reorder them by dragging them around - the first time I've tried that. The reordered circles feed into reordered circle menus on old version and I check the new G+ version to confirm that hallelujah the Circle streams menu also has reordered circles for quick filtering and is much more usable with my main circles now at the top. 

However, it still only shows a subset of circles and if I want to jump into other circles not on that menu at some point then, too bad, there is no way to do that. So not quite completely useless, but still worryingly poor UI. 

The Collections and Communities navigation menus have potential, but not in their current format, which I will also deride as useless. As +Gideon Rosenblatt pointed out today these menus simply take you to lists of Collections or Communities, each one of which is a little cul de sac that you have to individually jump into. Seriously, why oh why would you ever fricken bother? Unless you were only following a handful of Collections or Communities? Options moved front and center to the top of navigation and never to be used again. Don't get me wrong: I do understand the platform's push for Collections, etc, and better competing for the interest graph, and think ultimately it will be a good thing for the platform. 

Desperately Needed Fixes

Circle streams menu needs to be in navigation by default. 

Circle streams drop down menu needs to INCLUDE ALL TEH CIRCLES FFS. 

➤ A user's circles, accessible via People in navigation NEEDS A SIMPLE REORDERING tool FFS. 

Collections and Communities navigation options NEED DROPDOWN MENUS like the Circle streams option and simple tools to allow quick grouping of Collections or Communities  such that users can click on a grouping to see ALL THE POSTS from that grouping of Collections or Communities (or hell just let ALL the Collections and Communities appear) in the stream, rather than having to click and jump into each individual Collection or Community, which is honestly never going to happen. 


➤ It'd be nice to have high-level controls to reorder the navigation menu, e.g. I'd put Circle streams in #2 spot under Home. 

➤ It'd be nice to have a Hangouts option in navigation, even if you need to turn it on in settings. 

Rant Over

UI / UX feedback for +Google+#googleplus   #newdesign   #iscrap  
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+Adam Black The bell appears on every Google-hosted page. It also appears on YouTube, on a new tab in Chrome, and everywhere else.

And I understand the problems with the bell. But the convenience of not navigating away from the current page trumps those issues, for me.
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 46/2015.
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Nanometer 3D fabrication, Ultrasound vs brain barrier, Deep learning, Magnet BCI, Better optogenetics tools, Improved neuron model, Porous liquids, Nanoparticle plant growth, Shock electrodialysis, Rapid 3D robots. 

1. 3D Nanometer Structures with Electron Microscopy
Scanning transmission electron microscopes can now be used to sculpt nanometer-sized 3D features in oxide materials The technique offers single plane atomic precision and produces structures whose composition is in perfect crystal alignment and so ensuring uniform electromechanical properties - further, these structures can be generated deep within the bulk substrate, below the surface in a controlled manner. Current resolution is about 2nm and involves an electron beam transferring energy to individual atoms. 

2. Ultrasound to Open the Blood Brain Barrier
Focused ultrasound can now be used non-invasively open the blood brain barrier to allow the passage of drugs and other molecules as desired As part of the demonstration the group successfully delivered a chemotherapy drug through the blood brain barrier to target a malignant brain tumour. Interestingly this is a physical effect, relying on the injection of microbubbles into the bloodstream, and MRI-guided focused low-intensity ultrasound to blood vessels in the desired region of the brain, causing the microbubbles to contract and expand, vibrating the BBB and making it permeable. This was also apparently two decades in the making with an industry partner, so should have a higher chance of making a wider impact.  

3. Deep Learning the Many Things
There were a bunch of interesting deep learning stories this week. First and foremost was Google’s announcement to open-source its TensorFlow deep learning system to allow anyone to benefit from the same powerful tool that powers much of the intelligence in many Google products Second, Enlitic’s deep learning system is significantly better than radiologists at detecting cancer from CT scans Third, deep learning algorithms are becoming better than humans at spotting lying from facial expressions, and are also learning to spot hidden human microexpressions

4. Making Better Brain Computer Interfaces
Work progresses on using precise magnetic fields to stimulate 20nm iron oxide nanoparticles injected into desired areas of the brain that can active neurons when stimulated This builds on earlier work, showing that magnetic fields plus magnetic nanoparticles can be used to not only stimulate neurons in the cortex but also in deep areas of the brain, and was proven in mice that expressed fluorescent protein in those areas stimulated. In related news better neural-signal-decoding algorithms have been developed, and a neurologist and BCI inventor takes the ultimate step by having a BCI implanted into his own healthy brain

5. Better Optogenetics Tools
In a significant step for optogenetics flexible, stretchy, wireless light-emitting electronic implants have been developed that solve a number of problems that rigid optogenetic implants possess The implants were successfully demonstrated in mice; their flexibility allowed them to be sutured in place, and once wirelessly powered they were able to activate the sensation of pain in the mice after having their sensory nerve cells engineered to produce the optogenetic protein. Such a device might be used to block pain in humans in future. In related news new techniques have been developed with infrared light to allow deep-brain imaging (and stimulation) in ways not before possible

6. Improved Artificial Model of Biological Neurons
Jeff Hawkins has released a new model of neurons that explains a number of different known phenomena, including the vast number of synapses in real neurons and memory functions like chunking, and also makes testable predictions for the behaviour and features of neurons that can be confirmed in future The model divides a neuron’s synapses into proximal and distal connections, which play entirely different roles in the process of learning. Proximal synapses trigger the cell to fire when certain patterns of connections occur, while distal synapses recognise patterns not to trigger firing but to set the cell up for the arrival of certain other patterns and in a way predicting what that should be. Not just patterns but the sequence of patterns. If confirmed such models will lead to improved neuromorphic computing and deep learning systems.

7. Creating a Porous Liquid
The term “porous liquid” was impossible to pass up. Chemists have created free-flowing liquids whose properties are determined by permanent porosity, and which are comprised of cage molecules that are soluble in solvents whose molecules are too big to enter the cages,539041,en.html. The key depends on the solvent of course but nonetheless the concentration of unoccupied cages can enable up to eight times more methane or other gases to be dissolved in the liquid by being captured and stored in the molecular cages. An interesting material with useful properties and applications that we can’t fully imagine right now. 

8. Plant Growth Boost with Nanoparticles
Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles, when applied as a fine spray onto the leaves of tomato plants, results in bigger, faster-growing plants that take up nutrients from the soil much quicker and produce 82% more fruit by weight The titanium dioxide increases chlorophyll content to boost photosynthesis while the zinc improves the function of key enzymes; the tomatoes also produced between 80% and 113% more lycopene. The level of nanoparticles was below official limits and lower than that in normal fertilisers. Additional nanoparticles are being explored as well as optimising the levels of nanoparticles needed. 

9. Desalination via Shock Electrodialysis
Shock electrodialysis is a new desalination process that involves flowing salty water through a porous material while electrodes on either side of the pipe of porous material allow a current to flow through the flow that, beyond a certain level, induces a shock wave that sharply divides the flowing stream into fresh and salty regions that can be easily separated to isolate the fresh water While a practical device has been demonstrated, scaling up the process will be important to find applications where it is competitive with other methods. 

10. Rapid 3D-Printable Robots
Disney research and collaborators have developed an interactive 3D computer-aided-design system that allows novice users to quickly create 3D-printable robotic creatures Not only are robot designs, leg count, and degrees of freedom quickly customisable by the use via the system, but movement, gait, and fine aspects of motor control can be intuitively modified as desired and when happy with the model it can be printed, hooked up to off-the-shelf servo motors, and run in a manner that closely mimics the simulation. 

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Number 10! Abstracting hardware in this way will really accelerate robot design.
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Quanta Discusses Recent Brain Research

Many of you already read Quanta but this is another excellent article that I thought deserved a summary share, How Humans Evolved Supersized Brains. The article delves into the ongoing puzzle as to why and how human brains came to be so big and powerful; why over less than 3 million years they quadrupled in size from 350g to 1,300g, when primates took 60 million years to reach 350g brains in the first place. 

Some points of interest:

➤ New techniques to dissolve brains and extract and count cell nuclei give much more accurate cell counts for brains and, for example, show that larger brains do not always have more neurons and neuronal distribution is often different. The human brain has more neurons in the cerebral cortex than any other animal. 

➤ While an elephant has a brain 2.5 times as large as a human (2.8kg vs 1.2kg), the cerebral cortex of the human brain has 3 times as many neurons (16.3 billion vs 5.6 billion). This is the first time I’ve come across this fact. 

➤ While the human brain as about 86 billion neurons, 69 billion are in the cerebellum and only 16 billion are in the cerebral cortex for high-order intelligence and reasoning. To me this suggests a sort of computational overhang with regard to developing neuromorphic AI: you won’t need hardware that can replicate 86 billion neurons, but only 20% of that - so ~2.5 doublings or ~5 years earlier than expected. 

➤ Human brain makes up 2% of body mass but consumes 20% of total energy, whereas a chimpanzee requires only half that. 
Analysis of cellular glucose-importing genes in the brain and muscle reveals that such genes are 3.2 times more active in human brains compared to chimp brains, but 1.6 times more active in chimp muscles compared to human muscles, and identically active in the respective livers. Human regulatory sequences for these genes show signs of accelerated evolution. Accounting for size and weight, chimp muscles are about twice as strong as humans. 

➤ Key regulatory sequences active in brain development were taken from humans and chimps and introduced into mice: mice with the human version developed brains 12% larger and had cells that divide and multiply in 9 hours instead of 12. 

Goldilocks Factors for Human Intelligence

The development of human intelligence appears dependent on a fortuitous confluence of many different factors:

➤ Development of bipedalism to free up hands for tool-making, at the expense of slower movement compared to predators. 

➤ Development fire-building and hunting to source easier-to-digest and higher-quality foods due to energy allocation away from gut and muscles.

➤ Development of extreme manual dexterity. 

➤ Development of vocal tract capable of complex communication at the expense of choking hazards. 

➤ Development of extremely dense and dangerously energy hungry neural cortex at the expense of muscle power.  

➤ Development of extreme sociality to facilitate large, stable groups of individuals, requiring a long childhood and retention of play and curiosity with age, at the expense of more than a decade of youthful defenselessness. 

➤ I think the general process of neoteny, the retention of juvenile characteristics into adulthood is important here in general to facilitate a great many of these factors. 

➤ A complex environment nonetheless conducive to the survival of such a physically weak animal is also important. 

When considering the development of intelligence not only on Earth, but also elsewhere in the Universe, these are all important factors that should feed into and influence the Drake Equation and Fermi Paradox. There are a lot of subtle factors that were required to be present in just the right way at just the right time for human intelligence to begin to emerge and develop; a lot of luck seems to have been involved. Primate brains were quite content to remain at 350g for 60 million years, not to mention the dinosaur brains before them that were content to remain smaller for a much longer period of time. I hope as we learn more about these different factors we gain a clearer idea of how astronomically improbable the development of our intelligence was and so a greater degree of confidence that the Great Filter is behind us. 

Main article here: 

#brain   #intelligence   #evolution
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+Mark Bruce Nice.
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Limestone Coast

Elise and I recently had the chance to enjoy a long weekend in South Australia’s Limestone Coast, an area that we’ve both wanted to go and see for a while now and which turned out to be, for us, an undiscovered gem. Most of the state is quite arid, and growing up in the arid coastal north of the state my conception of the state is one of bountiful oceans, small beaches, red dirt, semi-desert, old landscapes, small hills, and plains of knee-high saltbush dotted with the occasional twisted tree or group of trees less than three or so meters tall. Before the trip my conception certainly didn’t include expansive green plains, vineyards stretching to the horizon, frequent massive red gum trees and woodland, expansive lush productive forests, blooming wetlands, lakes, steep ocean cliffs, caves, and fine untouched beaches that stretch as far as the eye can see, all of which we took in while travelling around the limestone coast. 

The Region

The Limestone Coast occupies the southeastern region of South Australia and is a type of karst landscape formed by the action of water on sedimentary deposits of ancient corals and other marine organisms. Notable features include the world heritage listed Naracoorte Caves National Park that houses an extensive limestone cave system and preserved fossils of marsupial megafauna up to 500,000 years old. Other areas of interest include large sinkholes, cliffs, beaches, lagoons and wetlands, a prestigious wine producing region, farming and dairy industry, and extensive forestry operations. The land is flat but that area around Mount Gambier is home to the youngest volcanoes in Australia, which are generally considered extinct and last erupted less than 6,000 years ago; the largest of which has a crater bottom 70m below the water table that holds the Blue Lake.  


Despite spending just 3 days in the region, covering 1,500km, and squeezing a lot in, we did find time to relax and take it easy. I did miss my weekly Sunday deadline by 12 hours afterall! We stayed at a gorgeous little bed and breakfast in Robe, ate pizza on the beach while the sun set, strolled around Robe and took in the shops and cliffs and Robe Obelisk, discovered surprisingly excellent cafes (so far from Adelaide), and generally took it easy in between sight seeing. The 5 minute video below is a summary of edited clips from the following interesting sites we visited. 

Naracoorte Caves
I booked an hour-long cave tour with a guide and a small group to go and explore Victoria Cave, the main fossil cave and one of the best sites in Australia for now-extinct marsupial megafauna including the marsupial “lion.” The guide was great; lots of history and discoveries and really impressed upon us the importance of the site. In among the stalactites and stalagmites you’d occasionally see pale fossils of ancient marine organisms 10 or 20 million years old. The heart of the cave adjucts an active fossil dig site and displays fossils of the marsupial lion (Thyacoleao carnifex) and its prey. I captured and posted to Google Maps the only photosphere taken at the heart of the cave, which you can find here:  

Bool Lagoon
This is supposed to be a large wetland area filled with shallow water and reeds, famous for bird watching, and with a boardwalk described as “like a tranquil walk on water.” Unfortunately when we got there we discovered that the water is apparently seasonal and quite absent at this time of year; it was dry, the boardwalk was rickety and in need of repair, and it ended at a thoroughly dilapidated bird watching hut covered in bird poo and housing the corpses of 10,000 bees in one corner. Memorable for the wrong reasons. Photosphere can be found here: in which you can see Elise looking unimpressed. 

Robe Obelisk
Robe is next to some pretty stunning beaches but the sea cliffs around the Robe Obelisk - built as a visual aid for sailors - just invite exploration. The crash of the waves, the strong wind in your hair, the fresh salty smell, the white limestone rocks, soft sand dunes, and scrub. It is a section of coast that I could happily walk along for hours. One of the Photospheres can be found here: and I think you can even make out the phase of the moon in this one. 

Piccanninie Ponds
This is a protected wetland area near the very southern tip of the limestone coast and is fed by freshwater springs flowing through the limestone rock. Beneath the water lie shallow channels, sinkholes, and caves, and permits are available for snorkeling and cave diving. This site is one of the state’s hidden treasures, with some of the freshest water in the state, excellent visibility, a haven for certain bird species and just generally a unique piece of beautiful geography. I hired a wetsuit and gear from a local town and jumped in to go snorkeling for 30 or so minutes, swimming over deep dark depths, shallow reed and water-plant filled channels, and generally just being amazed by such a novel experience and environment. These ponds do have a boardwalk over the water and the nearby beach is pretty incredible: this huge expansive beach stretching as far as the eye could see and I was the only human being there at the time. A Photosphere from the pond entry platform is here: while one from the beach next to the pond outlet is here:  

Umpherston Sinkhole & Hell’s Hole
These are significant, old, large, limestone sinkholes that have formed near Mount Gambier. Umpherston is in the town, has been drained and now repurposed as a park and beautiful terraced gardens, Photosphere here: while Hell’s Hole is a 15 minute drive south of the town and situated in an obscure location in among the forests; after parking you have to walk through the quiet eerie forests before it thins out, you walk along a narrow path between ferns and other small trees before arriving at the cantilevered steel platform overhanging the huge sinkhole. Hell’s Hole is big and quiet in an isolated spot with steep edges covered in nooks that are home to birds and a 20m drop down to the water. People go cave diving here. Photosphere view from the platform:  

Blue Lake & Centenary Tower
The dominant features of Mount Gambier are the extinct volcanos. One holds the largest body of water and the town’s water supply in its crater, the Blue Lake. It was windy and overcast that day and I imagine it looks quite spectacular under a blue sky during summer months. View from the main lookout here: Next to the Blue Lake is another extinct volcano with Valley Lake, lush parklands and picnic spots, boating facilities and lots of wild fowl. Atop the highest point of the rim of this extinct volcano, after a long and very steep walk, sits Centenary Tower, which is probably the highest point in the Limestone Coast, the lookout from which offers amazing views that stretch to the horizon far beyond the edges of the town and clearly shows another extinct volcano, Mount Shank, in the distance. Of course I took a Photosphere from here:  
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Thanks for pointing out the failure of the photosphere links +Kevin Clift - unfortunately these links aren't sharable on mobile devices and require a bit of hassle to get working on desktop - which is a major failing of the +Google Maps team at the moment. Frustrating and bizarre given this functionality used to work just fine. I think I've fixed all links so that they should launch just fine in browser on desktop. The exception is the Robe Obelisk link, which due to the popularity of that spot is currently unlinkable by Google Maps. 

Thanks +Michelle Beissel :)
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Waste of $15

I wanted an upgrade to my Google Cardboard and so went and bought this "VR Headset" off Ebay from some no-name manufacturer. It featured a fully-enclosed phone / display mounting, wrap-around face-mounting, adjustable lenses, and foam surfaces for comfort. Unfortunately the phone / display mount was poorly designed and the phone jostled around at times, and the optics are just freaking terrible: blurry images and really bad field-of-view. To top it off I have +Simon Anderson teasing me with his new Gear VR :)
At least it was only $15. 
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Not in one of the release countries for vive.. Doubt they'll stay on the shelf long either. 
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Hangouts in Grid Menu?

Does anyone know if it is possible to get a Hangouts shortcut in the Grid Menu launcher? I've had a quick search but it doesn't seem to be possible, even though clicking on "More" and then "Even more from Google" at bottom opens the full product page that does indeed include Hangouts in the listing. This would just be nice and convenient at times and like the other shortcuts would launch in a new tab, which is a nice and clean product website in a desktop browser that I do use from time to time. 
Fred Gandt's profile photoTempest Kitty's profile photoGideon Rosenblatt's profile photo‫حسن الجعفري‬‎'s profile photo
Yeah, +Fred Gandt found the same answer as me. Looks like Hangouts is not set up for this yet - even though Wallet and Contacts are (since I use those all the time from my desktop). 
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Mark Bruce

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Hardball Questions

Hardball Questions For The Next Debate is a very clever recent post from Slate Star Codex: The most entertaining entry and the one I liked most is the following Senator Ted Cruz excerpt, complete with its counter-intuitive but perfectly logical conclusion. The whole post is well worth a read for intellectually stimulating entertainment :)

Senator Cruz:

You were on your college debate team, and you were good at it. Really good. You won the national championships and you were pretty widely believed to be the best debater in the country. Quite an achievement. But my worry is – which is more likely? That the best debater in the country would also be the best choice for President? Or that he would be really really really good at making us think that he would be?

Don’t respond yet. Before you answer that question – well, before you answer any question – we’ve got to think about this on the meta-level. There’s a classic problem in epistemology. Suppose that we have a superintelligence with near-infinite rhetorical brilliance. The superintelligence plays a game with interested humans. First, it takes the hundred or so most controversial topics, chooses two opposing positions on each, writes the positions down on pieces of paper, and then puts them in a jar. Then it chooses one position at random and tries to convince the human of that position. We observe that in a hundred such games, every human player has left 100% convinced of the position the superintelligence drew from the jar. Now it’s your turn to play the game. The superintelligence picks a position from the jar. It argues for the position. The argument is supremely convincing. After hearing it, you are more sure that the position is true than you have ever been of anything in your life; there’s so much evidence in favor that it is absolutely knock-down obvious. Should you believe the position?

The inside view tells you yes; upon evaluating the argument, you find is clearly true. The outside view tells you no; judging from the superintelligence’s past successes, it could have convinced you equally well of the opposite position. If you are smart, you will precommit to never changing your mind at all based on anything the superintelligence says. You will just shut it out of the community of entities capable of persuading you through argument.

Senator Cruz, you may not quite be at the superintelligence level, but given that you’ve been recognized as the most convincing person out of all three hundred million Americans, shouldn’t we institute similar precautions with you? Shouldn’t your supporters, even if they agree with everything you are saying, precommit to ignore you as a matter of principle?

The below image was #2 on a Google Image search for "ted cruz robot" :P
Matthew J Price's profile photoFred Gandt's profile photoMichael Powell's profile photoMark Dangaran's profile photo
+Samuel Leuenberger​ The problem comes from the fact that, as hard as any of us may try, none of us are capable of being perfectly rational, and spotting and understanding every logical fallacy. The theoretical superintelligent rhetorician would be carefully weaving fallacies so complex and subtle that you or I would never stand a chance at spotting them.
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Mark Bruce

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Two weeks with Nexus 6P

I ordered the 64GB Frost version as soon as it was available to order in Australia and have loved using the device over the last two weeks. Summary impressions:

* Great looks and hand-feel; I had good expectations but it is better than expected.
* Fingerprint scanner works like a charm and is quick; use it all the time to unlock and I hope third party apps or Tasker profiles can access the API so that different fingers can be assigned different quick-launch actions. 
* Always-on "Ok Google" Google Now function is pretty much flawless and works much better than the Nexus 6. 
* Very smooth touch UI is a treat to interact with.
* Camera is significantly better. I was having significant issues with the Nexus 6 camera particularly bad focusing for both still and especially video shots. The 6P camera is faster and more fully featured, burst mode is quick and useful, power-double-tap-to-launch is handy.
* Impressed with photo and video editing tools in Google Photos on the device, not sure if these were present before, for example quickly altering which section of video is in 240fps slow-mo is very simple to do. 
* Battery has been fine so far. Have noticed some oddities with power consumption and capacity dropping quicker than expected for periods but typically going to bed with 40% - 50%+ still available currently. 


* Noticed that the Photosphere viewer in Google Street View isn't properly calibrated to the device's accelerometers such that (i) viewing in "compass mode" the movement of the device doesn't result in proper movement of the image and (ii) viewing in "cardboard VR mode" seems to work fine. Can't be certain but I think the Photosphere / Street View viewer needs updating. Worked fine on the Nexus 6.
* Just today I noticed 3 - 4 bluetooth dropouts while in the car on the way home from work while streaming YouTube audio through car stereo, something I've never noticed before. Smartwatch and Android Wear works fine though. 

#nexus6p   #google   #android  
Laura Gordon's profile photoMark Bruce's profile photojesús calvo's profile photoHarsh shenvi Navelkar's profile photo
I think you're missing the forest for the trees there +Vincent Jan Latzko - side bezels on the 6P are thinner than the 6, and while top and bottom bezels are larger the 6P is a hell of a lot thinner and has a larger capacity battery in there too. I guess you prefer thin bezels and fat phones. But really, it makes very little difference. 
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Spacetime. Entanglement. The need for new models.

This is an area of inquiry I find endlessly fascinating and so I hope to put Spooky Action At A Distance on my reading list, not to resolve the questions (which it doesn’t claim to do), but just to be exposed to new memes, metaphors, and ways of thinking about the problem and paths towards resolving it - more info, an introduction, and links to ebook here: 

To dig into the nature of reality and our current best understanding and description of the fundamental basis of our existence is to crash headlong into a wall of ignorance and gain a new appreciation for how much we don’t know about the underlying nature of the Universe. Continuous vs discrete spacetime, entanglement, and local vs non-locality are some of the biggest unanswered and poorly conceptualised questions that exist. Even in light of the recent loophole-free Bell test of non-locality (here that still leaves Bell’s superdeterminism question open, we need different models and ways of thinking about these things now more than ever. 

#spacetime   #entanglement   #nonlocality  
Brahm Imanuel's profile photoRobert Tyer's profile photoHadjer Menni's profile photoChris Lidyard's profile photo
Yes I've always been fond of the transactional interpretation of QM +numbr fourth - I think it is rather elegant, if a little counter-intuitive and distasteful to some. 
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SciTech #ScienceSunday Digest - 45/2015.
Permalink here: 

DNA atomic precision, Prosthetic IR perception, Drone autonomy, Oncobiotics vs cancer, Superconductor electron maps, Biological magnets, Custom thermal expansion, Tiny particle accelerators, Fresnel compound lenses, Light powered implants. 

1. Atomic Precision with DNA Origami
DNA origami techniques have been used to create a scaffold capable of atomic-level molecular adjustments and positioning in solution at room temperature Using the scaffold the group can adjust the distance between two molecules in step sizes as small as the Bohr radius, a feat achieved by adding or subtracting basepairs from a DNA adjustor helix, the length of which controls the separation angle of the scaffold, and ultimately allows distances as small as 0.04nm to be discerned. To cap the demonstration off the group showed how the molecular device could be used for positional or distance controlled specific chemical reactions; the generation of reactant molecules was controllable depending on the positioning of precursors. 

2. Perceiving the Infrared with Neuroprostheses
Rat brains learn to quickly respond to infrared light after having electrodes implanted in their brains and connected to external infrared sensors on their heads When implanted into the somatosensory cortex where whiskers send signals, the rats rubbed their whiskers when an IR light was turned on at first, but soon adapted and responded to the light (reward task) without whisker twitching. When implanted into the visual cortex the rats learned to integrate the additional signals even quicker and learned IR-light-based reward tasks rapidly. At some point we’ll see work like this with high-resolution sensors and implants / neural interfaces. 

3. Autonomous Drone Obstacle Avoidance
Small drones equipped with stereo cameras, two smartphones worth of computation, and real-time image processing can now autonomously navigate environments and recognise and avoid obstacles See the embedded video for a demonstration. The key here is the drastic speed up in image processing and obstacle avoidance by minimising the visual field being considered and only concentrating on a narrow in-focus detection area 10m ahead of the drone. Processing is updated every 8.3 seconds if the drone is flying at 10m per second, and this results in building a temporary 3D map that allows it to take corrective action. 

4. Oncobiotics Attacks Cancer via the Microbiome
Evelo Therapeutics has launched to develop a range of cancer therapies based on engineered bacteria that form part of the microbiome, dubbed oncobiotics The group will engineer bacteria to (i) activate and prime the immune system, (ii) disrupt and alter the tumour microenvironment, (iii) interfere with tumour metabolism, and (iv) modify tumour cell-cell interactions. Quite a promising platform with lots of applications both for and beyond cancer. 

5. 3D Electron Maps Linked to Superconductivity
Another natural phenomena discovery this week was linked to observations of a “high-temperature” superconductor’s three dimensional arrangement of electrons A particular superconductor material was probed with 28 Tesla magnetic pulses and x-ray laser pulses 5 femtoseconds long. This revealed a three-dimensional version of the types of two-dimensional charge density waves that were already known, but which appeared more orderly and stable. Next steps are to find similar structures in other materials and use this knowledge to build new materials that replicate these structures at higher (room) temperatures. 

6. Engineering Biological Magnets
The protein ferritin is naturally, if weakly, magnetic. Using ferritin as a template new modified hypermagnetic forms of the protein have been engineered that have much stronger magnetic properties The important thing here is that if you wish to give a cell magnetic properties you can now encode this ability magnetically by engineering cells to produce these proteins, which can also be conjugated to other proteins with particular functions. The new protein was created as part of a directed evolution optimisation process. Cells don’t need to be tagged with synthetic magnetic particles when they can produce their own, which can be made to turn on only under certain conditions and used to isolate or image the cells. 

7. Metal Alloys with Custom Thermal Expansion
A new group claims to have developed principles that allow the design of custom alloys with defined macroscopic thermal expansion properties The group quotes possibilities for the new materials including (i) tailored thermal expansion response without manipulating material composition, (ii) metal alloys with thermal expansion properties that match polymers and ceramics, (iii) and even metal alloys with thermal expansion of zero that don’t change shape with temperature. Sounds really useful but I’m still trying to think of concrete applications where this might be usefully deployed. 

8. Ultracompact Particle Accelerators
Ultracompact portable particle accelerators might be enabled with a new process allowing electrons to be accelerated to near light-speed using record-low laser light In the demonstration millijoules of laser pulse energy was used to high-charge electron beams to energies of 10 million electron volts. The process works by firing precise laser pulses at a plasma to generate a wake or waves that pulls electrons in the direction of the laser pulse, and the physics depends on the density of the plasma to help generate the phenomena of relativistic self-focusing in which heavier electrons are travelling faster. 

9. Fresnel Compound Lenses for Imaging
Miniature flexible fresnel micro-lens arrays have been created that enable a very large field of view Building on inspiration from compound eyes, the fresnel zone lenses on the flexible substrate allow the shape of the lens array to be reconfigured on the fly as needed via bending, twisting, and stretching. The fresnel lenses themselves, comprised of alternating concentric light and dark circles, were created by forming black silicon - or light-trapping silicon nanowires - into the dark circle regions. The team are now trying to demonstrate prototype applications by incorporating the arrays into both existing and custom optical devices. 

10. Implants Powered by Light
A new type of implant has been developed that is wirelessly powered from outside the body by near infrared light The device can work at a depth of up to 4cm - 10cm from the skin, where the flashing light pulses generate small temperature changes that are used to generate voltage / current pulses; it is comprised of a polymer sandwiched between graphene sheets and was successfully demonstrated in frogs and rats as a nerve stimulator. I do wonder what implantable power source will become standard in future, now that infrared joins batteries, radio, magnetic, and ultrasound options. 

Hervé Musseau's profile photoDave Gööck (mechaD)'s profile photoHadjer Menni's profile photoXxy Yyx's profile photo
Yes that's a good example +Samuel Holmes - any space-based equipment, even the ISS undergoes cycles of heating and cooling. Anything orbiting Mercury would be cycling between extremes. Last thing you want is your bolts thermally expanding at a different rate to your cladding. 
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A transhumanist and technophile residing in Australia, loving life and avidly looking forward to the future.
Hi, I’m Mark. I am a unique selfplex of knowledgeable, technophilic, and insatiably-curious memes currently residing on organic wetware with a personable and engaging predisposition, which is acutely aware of being a small but furiously spinning cog in the great meme-machine built by the human civilisation. 
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