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Neuroscientists Make “Jaw-Dropping” Discovery of “Wireless” Brain Communication

A team of researchers studying the brain have discovered a brand new and previously unidentified form of “wireless” neural communications that self-propagates across brain tissue and is capable of leaping from neurons in one part of the brain to another, even if the connection between them has been severed.

The discovery by biomedical engineering researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio could prove key to understanding the activity surrounding neural communication, as well as specific processes and disorders in the central nervous system.

The discovery also upends the traditional understanding of neural communication, which had previously been thought to consist in such modes as synaptic transmission, axonal transmission and gap junction connections between neurons.

Lead researcher and neural and biomedical engineer Dominique Durand told Case Western’s The Daily that while the implications of their find could be massive, they are still barely beginning to understand the discovery:

We don’t know yet the ‘So what?’ part of this discovery entirely … But we do know that this seems to be an entirely new form of communication in the brain, so we are very excited about this.

While the brain still largely remains a mystery, scientists had been aware that it sends out small neural waves that generate small amounts of electrical energy. However, the electric fields were thought to have been too small to result in any sort of neural activity.

However, Durand’s team was able to discover that these fields are not only capable of exciting neighboring cells, but can self-produce waves of activity that cross gaps of the brain – including a gap of brain tissue that was entirely severed.

During an experiment, the brain-wave “leaped” across an empty gap repeatedly – similar to a stadium fan “wave” during a home-run that continues to spread even as some onlookers might remain seated.

Durand noted:

We’ve known about these waves for a long time, but no one knows their exact function and no one believed they could spontaneously propagate … I’ve been studying the hippocampus, itself just one small part of the brain, for 40 years and it keeps surprising me.

The Journal of Psychology review committee requested that the Case Western researchers replicate the experiment prior to publishing their work, but Durand noted that “every experiment we’ve done since to test it has confirmed it so far.” The paper was published in the October issue of the journal.

Durand remains proud of the discovery, which he found impossible to believe when he first saw it – as did members of his team and a colleague at Tianjin University in China.

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Science & Technology

Physicists Create Quantum-Scale “Mona Lisa,” Just for Funsies

Artwork for Ants

A research experiment at the University of Queensland started as an attempt to better understand how fluids flow.

But somewhere along the way the team got sidetracked — by an art project.

“We were hoping to gain new insights into how our everyday world arises out of the microscopic quantum world, helping us create new quantum-enhanced technologies,” researcher Tyler Neely explained in a press release. “But, while we were at it, we just happened to create some of the world’s smallest masterpieces.”

Superfine Art

To create the tiny works of art, Neely said he and his team took a gas made of rubidium atoms and cooled it the coldest possible temperature — -273.15 degrees Celsius (-459 degrees Fahrenheit) — to create a substance that acts like a “blob of gaseous quantum matter.”

The researchers then projected images of the “Mona Lisa,” “Starry Night,” and even their own headshots backwards through a projector illuminated by a laser — so they’d get smaller instead of larger — and onto the blob.

“This light ‘stamps’ the image on an area around about 100 microns wide — more or less the width of human hair, which can range from between 17 to 181 microns wide,” Neely explained. “We can then take the image, which is only in black and white, and produce color shots by producing a ‘red,’ ‘blue,’ and ‘green’ image, and then combine them on a computer.”

READ MORE: Scientists ‘paint’ Mona Lisa on a quantum canvas [The University of Queensland]

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Students Taking the SAT Will Now Get a Secret “Adversity Score”

Fair Shot

The SAT is adding another score alongside Verbal and Math — and it’s one students won’t be able to raise with a little extra test prep.

Every year, about two million students take the SAT as part of the college admissions process, and students’ scores tend to reflect their socio-economic backgrounds — those raised in upper-income families often score higher than those from lower-income families, for example.

In an effort to ensure colleges are aware of those background factors when considering prospective students, the College Board, which is the nonprofit that oversees the SAT, has announced plans to give each test-taker an “adversity score” — a bold move that has the potential to level the educational playing field for America’s youth.

Fifteen Factors

The College Board told The Wall Street Journal it takes 15 factors into account when producing each student’s adversity score, which the students themselves won’t be able to see. These include the crime and poverty rates in the student’s neighborhood and whether they come from a single-parent family.

The nonprofit already tested the adversity scores with 50 colleges, and it plans to expand to 150 schools this fall before a widespread rollout.

“There are a number of amazing students who may have scored less [on the SAT] but have accomplished more,” College Board chief executive David Coleman told the WSJ. “We can’t sit on our hands and ignore the disparities of wealth reflected in the SAT.”

READ MORE: SAT to Give Students ‘Adversity Score’ to Capture Social and Economic Background [The Wall Street Journal]

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Now You Can Experiment With OpenAI’s “Dangerous” Fake News AI

ChatBot

When OpenAI, the AI research organization founded by Elon Musk, created a text-generating AI system called GPT-2, the group said it was too dangerous to be released lest it be used to create propaganda or fake news.

Now, thanks to a website called “TalkToTransformer.com,” you can use a watered-down version of the algorithm to write your to-do list, draft a new screenplay, or write rambling essays based on a prompt. The results aren’t perfect, but by making the algorithm publicly accessible, people could get a better understanding of what advanced AI is capable of and where it falters.

Short Term Memory

The stories that the algorithm tells are often incoherent, introducing and forgetting characters, props, and setting willy-nilly, reports The Verge after kicking the tires.

For example, when prompted with sample dialogue among characters from “The Avengers,” TalkToTransformer churned out a bizarre scene where “Tony,” “Steve,” and Thor fumbled over a door handle before Tony asked Steve if he’s “Tony the Iron Man.” Not exactly the most compelling addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The bold section is the prompt. The rest is, uh, not.

Fake Fake News

When prompted with “Futurism.com, best-known for,” the algorithm instead wrote a blurb for a book written by a “Mr. Wunderlich.”

Someday we’ll make it big.
We had some fun with the algorithm, but the real question is over whether the system could be dangerous or misleading. Based on our tests, almost every single result was clearly written by a computer that doesn’t quite grasp how language works — fake news-writing AI may be on the horizon, but it isn’t here yet.

READ MORE: Use this cutting-edge AI text generator to write stories, poems, news articles, and more [The Verge]

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