Some Sanity in the ‘Web Makes Us Dumber’ Debate

June 12, 2010

Nick Carr and Clay Shirky recently waged a head-to-head battle — via dueling Wall Street Journal essays — over whether the Internet is making us smarter or dumber. Carr reiterated some of the points made in his recent book The Shallows, saying the web continually distracts us, and that this distraction is making us less smart (and less interesting). Shirky, however, argued that the explosion of media the web has brought us contains a lot of noise, but also has a lot of value for society.

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What Happens When You Die? Evidence Suggests Time Simply Reboots

June 11, 2010

What happens when we die? Do we rot into the ground, or do we go to heaven (or hell, if we’ve been bad)? Experiments suggest the answer is simpler than anyone thought. Without the glue of consciousness, time essentially reboots.

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How LED Tattoos Could Change The Face of Humanity

November 22, 2009

The title character of Ray Bradbury’s book The Illustrated Man is covered with moving, shifting tattoos. If you look at them, they will tell you a story.  New LED tattoos from the University of Pennsylvania could make the Illustrated Man real (minus the creepy stories, of course). Researchers there are developing silicon-and-silk implantable devices which sit under the skin like a tattoo. Already implanted into mice, these tattoos could carry LEDs, turning your skin into a screen.

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The Collider, the Particle and a Theory About Fate

October 17, 2009


Holger Bech Nielsen, of the Niels Bohr Institute in Copenhagen, and Masao Ninomiya of the Yukawa Institute for Theoretical Physics in Kyoto, Japan, have ended up with the theory that the Future is trying to stop us from creating a Higgs boson particle… While it is a paradox to go back in time and kill your grandfather, physicists agree there is no paradox if you go back in time and save him from being hit by a bus. In the case of the Higgs and the collider, it is as if something is going back in time to keep the universe from being hit by a bus. Although just why the Higgs would be a catastrophe is not clear. If we knew, presumably, we wouldn’t be trying to make one.

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Winning the ultimate battle: How humans could end war

July 7, 2009


Optimists called the first world war “the war to end all wars”. Philosopher George Santayana demurred. In its aftermath he declared: “Only the dead have seen the end of war”. History has proved him right, of course. What’s more, today virtually nobody believes that humankind will ever transcend the violence and bloodshed of warfare. I know this because for years I have conducted numerous surveys asking people if they think war is inevitable. Whether male or female, liberal or conservative, old or young, most people believe it is. For example, when I asked students at my university “Will humans ever stop fighting wars?” more than 90 per cent answered “No”. Many justified their assertion by adding that war is “part of human nature” or “in our genes”. But is it really?

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Surgery’s past, present and robotic future

June 19, 2009


Continuing on the topic from the last post… Surgeon and inventor Catherine Mohr tours the history of surgery (and its pre-painkiller, pre-antiseptic past), then demos some of the newest tools for surgery through tiny incisions, performed using nimble robot hands. Fascinating — but not for the squeamish.

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da Vinci Surgery

June 11, 2009


I’m a da Vinci surgeon because it is obvious to me that this is an improvement, a paradigm shift if you will, a leap forward in our ability to take care of our patients… and it really comes down to the bottom line. If I was going to have someone in my own family operated on would I want that surgeon to be trained in robotics? Yeah, I would.