March 6, 2014
Bionic arm gives cyborg drummer superhuman skills
(New Scientist) – JASON BARNES had wanted to be a professional drummer since he was a teenager. But when he lost his arm in a freak accident he thought his dream was over. Now he has a second chance at the big time – thanks to a brand new robotic arm. Barnes lost the lower half of his right arm two years ago, after getting an electric shock while cleaning a vent hood in a restaurant. But he refused to give up on his musical dream, so he built a simple drumming device out of a brace and some springs that attached to his arm.
Thailand offers tourists a chance to win a new face
(CNN) – Fancy a different face but can’t afford to go under the knife? Thailand’s Tourism Authority has launched an Extreme Makeover contest, offering three lucky ladies a chance to win free facial surgery along with a shot at $5,000 and a luxury vacation. To enter, you’ll have to submit photos showing your face from various angles, along with a health profile and written explanation of why you so badly covet a makeover.
March 4, 2014
A powerful new way to edit DNA
(New York Times) – Already the molecular system, known as Crispr, is being used to make genetically engineered laboratory animals more easily than could be done before, with changes in multiple genes. Scientists in China recently made monkeys with changes in two genes. Scientists hope Crispr might also be used for genomic surgery, as it were, to correct errant genes that cause disease. Working in a laboratory — not, as yet, in actual humans — researchers at the Hubrecht Institute in the Netherlands showed they could fix a mutation that causes cystic fibrosis.
March 3, 2014
Should transhumanists have children?
(Huffington Post) – Transhumanists are people who desire to use science and technology to improve the human being. While the international movement of transhumanism is rapidly growing and diversifying, its most important goal remains the same: overcoming human mortality. Many experts believe some sort of indefinite sentience for individual human beings, whether via age reversal or by mind uploading into computers, will be achieved around 2045. Such incredible advances will change the way the species views itself. Procreation, the foundation of human civilization, will be one activity that is dramatically affected.
February 25, 2014
The secret to a bulletproof antidoping test?
(New York Times) – In the lab of Yannis Pitsiladis, a physiologist in Scotland, athletes spend their days injecting synthetic EPO, a popular performance-enhancing drug that tricks bone marrow into churning out more red blood cells, allowing athletes’ bodies to absorb more oxygen. Pitsiladis hasn’t gone rogue. He’s at the forefront of an effort to revolutionize the hunt for dopers in sports by scouring his subjects’ blood cells for a distinctive, long-lasting genetic “fingerprint” left by the drug.
February 24, 2014
Are robots about to rise? Google’s new director of engineering thinks so…
(The Guardian) – Ray Kurzweil popularised the Teminator-like moment he called the ‘singularity’, when artificial intelligence overtakes human thinking. But now the man who hopes to be immortal is involved in the very same quest – on behalf of the tech behemoth.
Students combine arts and science while exploring ‘transhumanism’ [slide show]
(Scientific American) – The so-called “STEM” fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—are often grouped together in discussions of education policy or curriculum. But a group of students and faculty at Brown University, the Rhode Island School of Design (R.I.S.D.) and Massachusetts Institute of Technology believe that another letter should be added: “A,” for “arts.”
Plastic surgery in the Dominical Republic: Is the cheap cost of medical tourism worth the risk?
(Latin Post) – In the past, medical tourism was reserved only for the very rich, or for celebrities who wished to keep their under-the-knife travails secret from the prying eyes of the general public. Today, for a variety of reasons, medical tourism — especially in the Dominican Republic — has become increasingly popular, and is in fact affordable for all budgets… but is it all its cracked up to be?
February 20, 2014
A powerful and undetectable new kind of doping may be happening at the Olympics
(Business Insider) – “The world may be about to watch one of its last Olympic Games without genetically enhanced athletes,” wrote H. Lee Sweeney, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Time to cherish the old-fashioned athletes of Sochi? It might be too late. Sweeney actually penned that warning a decade ago, in a Scientific American article exploring a little-known practice called gene doping. In 2004, gene doping was not yet a real risk. But now? The technology has advanced, and authorities have reason to be concerned.
February 19, 2014
Plastic surgery offered for bullied kids
(CNN) – CNN’s Piers Morgan talks to Dr. Thomas Romo and one of his clients about offering plastic surgery to bullied kids.
February 14, 2014
Cure for love: Should we take anti-love drugs?
(New Scientist) – Breaking up is hard to do. If drugs could ease the pain, when should we use them, asks neuro-ethicist Brian D. Earp. For your research, how do you define love? We tend to think of love as a phenomenon grounded in ancient neurochemical systems that evolved for our ancestors’ reproductive needs. There is more to our experience of love than brain chemistry, of course, but those brain-level phenomena play a central role.
February 13, 2014
“Robocop”: When will cyborgs walk among humans
(CBS News) – Although the fields of robotics and artificial intelligence have made significant gains within the past 15 years, do not expect to see RoboCops walking among humans in the near future, said Charles Higgins, an associate professor of neuroscience and electrical engineering at the University of Arizona in Tucson.
February 12, 2014
Medication: The smart-pill oversell
(Nature) – For most people with ADHD, these medications — typically formulations of methylphenidate or amphetamine — quickly calm them down and increase their ability to concentrate. Although these behavioural changes make the drugs useful, a growing body of evidence suggests that the benefits mainly stop there. Studies indicate that the improvements seen with medication do not translate into better academic achievement or even social adjustment in the long term: people who were medicated as children show no improvements in antisocial behaviour, substance abuse or arrest rates later in life, for example. And one recent study suggested that the medications could even harm some children.
February 7, 2014
Breathe it in
(The Economist) – XENON is one of the shyest members of the periodic table of the elements. Chemically, it is almost inert, and physically, it makes up only 0.000009% of the atmosphere, so it is not surprising that it was among the last of the naturally occurring elements to be identified, in 1898. Biologically, however, it is not shy at all. In some countries, notably Russia, it is used as an anaesthetic. It is also known to protect body tissues from the effects of low temperatures, lack of oxygen and even physical trauma. In particular, it increases levels of erythropoietin, also known as EPO, a hormone that encourages the formation of red blood cells.
February 4, 2014
Sherlock’s text messages reveal our transhumanism
(Wired UK) – Since then, that technique — floating words representing text messages, internet searches, or some other form of technological interface — has become a core element of the series’ identity. And while there are plenty of tech-savvy shows out there, it’s that technique that makes Sherlock so incisive: not only is it reflective of our practices, but more importantly, it says as much about us as it does about its characters.
January 31, 2014
A New Edition of Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy is Available
Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy (Volume 17, No. 1, February 2014) is now available online by subscription only.
- “The enhancement debate” by Bert Gordijn and Henk ten Have
- “Moderate eugenics and human enhancement” by Michael J. Selgelid
- “Human freedom and enhancement” by Jan-Christoph Heilinger & Katja Crone
- “Pharmaceutical enhancement and medical professionals” by Gavin G. Enck
- “Authenticity and psychiatric disorder: does autonomy of personal preferences matter?” by Manne Sjöstrand and Niklas Juth
January 29, 2014
Google acquires UK artificial intelligence company DeepMind
Google’s acquisition spree continues as it snaps up London-based DeepMind Technologies, a company describing itself as being on the cutting edge of artificial intelligence. Re/Code, which originally reported the news, said Google had paid $400 million (£242 million) for the company, although after confirming the acquisition with Google itself, The Information reports the acquisition was worth more than $500 million (£300 million). (Wired)
January 22, 2014
Robo-ankle uses artificial muscles to get you walking
Go go robo-ankle! A robotic device kitted out with artificial muscles could help people with cerebral palsy strengthen their foot and ankle muscles, helping to improve their walking. Yong-Lae Park of Carnegie Mellon University and his colleagues took a standard knee strap, ankle brace and shoe, and attached four pneumatic artificial muscles. These are flexible tubes that contract when filled with air, mimicking the action of biological muscles. Three artificial muscles link the knee with the front of the ankle while a fourth is placed on the back, in an effort to replicate the normal configuration of muscles and tendons. (New Scientist)
January 20, 2014
Google’s new sugar-sensing contact lens
The Google lab known for working on unusual projects like self-driving cars is crafting a contact lens that could help diabetics manage blood sugar levels. “We’re now testing a smart contact lens that’s built to measure glucose levels in tears,” project co-founders Brian Otis and Babak Parviz said Thursday in a blog post. (Discovery News)
January 16, 2014
In ‘Transcendence’, Johnny Depp plays a brilliant scientist whose mind is allowed to live on and evolve through artificial intelligence, after his body is attacked. (U.S.A. Today)
January 14, 2014
Gene doping: Sport’s biggest battle?
This could be a battle like no other in sport. The authorities are so concerned, they have been preparing for it for more than 10 years. But it is still unclear whether they have the tools to test for it – or whether anyone has done it successfully. It is gene doping. The idea is simple: to alter our genetic makeup, the very building blocks of who we are, in order to make us stronger or faster. The practicalities are highly complex. (BBC)