(TMU) — Waves are all around us. Everywhere we go we encounter them. From Texas to New York and from China to Canada, you’ll always have waves vibrating and creating part (even most) of your reality. We can find them in the form of sound, images, and even heat.
As Nikola Tesla once said:
“If you wish to understand the Universe think of energy, frequency, and vibration.”
And now, a team of scientists from the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology and Russian corporation Neurobotics is understanding the universe inside our heads thanks to a device they created that is capable of “reading” the mind of the user. Science is always breaking the barrier between fiction and reality.
The team placed a cap of electrodes on the scalp of participants so they could record their brain waves (produced by synchronized electrical pulses from masses of neurons communicating with each other). This technique is noninvasive, with information gathered through an electrode-covered electroencephalography (EEG) headset.
They then had each participant watch 20 minutes worth of 10-second-long video fragments. The subject of each fragment fell into one of five categories and the researchers found they could tell which category of video a participant was watching just by looking at their EEG data.
In the researcher’s words:
“Here we hypothesize that observing the visual stimuli of different categories trigger distinct brain states that can be decoded from noninvasive EEG recordings. We introduce an effective closed-loop BCI system that reconstructs the observed or imagined stimuli images from the co-occurring brain wave parameters. The reconstructed images are presented to the subject as a visual feedback.”
To better understand the concept of brainwaves, let’s work with an analogy. We can think of brainwaves as musical notes, the low-frequency waves are like a deeply penetrating drum beat, while the higher frequency brainwaves are more like a subtle high pitched flute. Like a symphony, the higher and lower frequencies link and cohere with each other through harmonics.
We can understand this process as a transformation of waves to images.
“We did not expect that it contains sufficient information to even partially reconstruct an image observed by a person. Yet it turned out to be quite possible,” Grigory Rashkov, a junior researcher at MIPT and a programmer at Neurorobotics, said.
Of the method being noninvasive, Rashkov explained:
“Under present-day technology, the invasive neural interfaces envisioned by Elon Musk face the challenges of complex surgery and rapid deterioration due to natural processes—they oxidize and fail within several months.”
“We hope we can eventually design more affordable neural interfaces that do not require implantation,” Rashkov said.
As it turns out, the oil industry uses a similar method to find oilfields through processing frequencies that are sent to the subsurface of the earth to get an “image” of the layers of rock and fluids under our feet. That’s called Seismics.
It seems Tesla was right—we can understand the universe (even inside our heads) using frequency (and a touch of math, too).
Awesome New Infrared Goggles Could Help Blind People ‘See’ Surroundings
People who are blind or deal with low vision face a unique number of challenges in their daily lives, ranging from accessing published material to holding a job or living on one’s own.
However, emerging infrared technology under research could help the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them using a pair of innovative goggles.
In new research recently published and yet to be peer-reviewed, Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan at Germany’s Technical University of Munich explored how their 3D camera and haptic feedback armband can assist people with low vision.
“Even in the present era, visually impaired people face a constant challenge of navigation,” the pair wrote. “The most common tool available to them is the cane. Although the cane allows good detection of objects in the user’s immediate vicinity, it lacks the ability to detect obstacles further away.”
The two students’ design deploys two infrared cameras placed in a 3D-printed goggles prototype to get a stereoscopic view that is transformed by a small computer into a map of the user’s surroundings. The infrared gear also works in the dark. The armband then uses 25 actuators arranged in a grid that vibrates when users come close to objects while also assisting them in their orientation. As users walk near obstacles, the vibration intensity of the actuators increases.
In tests, subjects enjoyed roughly 98 percent accuracy while getting through obstacle pathways, with all five participants completing the course in their first run. After two additional runs, the volunteers were able to navigate the obstacles more rapidly.
Zahn and Khan frequently cited Microsoft’s Kinect motion detection system for the Xbox in their study, but the pair are confident that their own setup will be far smaller, cheaper and less conspicuous than the gaming device.
The new headset could offer an interesting opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to clear the myriad obstacles they face when performing regular tasks or navigating the world around them.
NASA Finds “Unusual” Signs of Life on Mars
New research unveiled on Sunday by NASA could point to the existence of life on the Red Planet, as well as a range of other exciting possibilities.
On Sunday, the space agency generated buzz with a statement about the latest find by its Curiosity rover: rocks that contain organic carbon, which may indicate the existence of ancient bacteria or any other diverse examples of “complex organic molecules formed by life.”
While analyzing rocks and other sediment collected by the rover across the Red Planet, researchers found an ancient carbon cycle that could have a “biological basis” and resembles the types of fossilized remains of microbial life discovered in parts of our own planet that date back some 2.7 billion years.
A tell-tale sign could be found in the two stable isotopes – 12 and 13 – that were found in the Martian carbon.
While the find offers tantalizing hope that life may have existed on Mars, the researchers are holding out hope that they can find other indicators of what caused these carbon signatures.
“On Earth, processes that would produce the carbon signal we’re detecting on Mars are biological,” said Prof. Christopher House at Penn State University, the lead author of the study. “We have to understand whether the same explanation works for Mars, or if there are other explanations, because Mars is very different.”
Indeed, a complex range of different factors may make biological processes radically different on Mars than on Earth. The Red Planet, for example, is far smaller, colder, and has weaker gravity as well as different gases in its atmosphere. Likewise, Martian carbon could be circulating in the absence of any life, unlike here on Earth.
“There’s a huge chunk of the carbon cycle on Earth that involves life, and because of life, there is a chunk of the carbon cycle on Earth we can’t understand, because everywhere we look there is life,” noted Curiosity researcher Andrew Steele from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.
Researchers are looking into the widespread existence of the simple organic molecule methane as a potential telltale sign of microbial life, with the focus of exploration lying near the Gale Crater – a deep lake that is 3.5 billion years old and is said to store complex organic molecules and many of the key ingredients for the existence of ife.
“Defining the carbon cycle on Mars is absolutely key to trying to understand how life could fit into that cycle,” Steele noted. “We have done that really successfully on Earth, but we are just beginning to define that cycle for Mars.”
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