Cybernetics update 4/1/2010

Posted by Ralph | 6:51 PM

As anyone that reads this blog knows I'm extremely interested in the new sciences of the "man-machine" interface.

Technology is advancing at such a fast pace often called the "Law of Accelerating Returns." If futurist predictions prove correct, we'll have advanced molecular manufacturing by around 2025, and cyboregs a decade or two later. Here's a great new article on the future of retinal implants.

"Seeing a Bionic Eye on Medicine's Horizon
Monday, March 22, 2010

TAU pioneers research for new retinal implant technology

Two rat neuronal cells bound to a rough carbon nanotube mat.

Television's Six Million Dollar Man foresaw a future when man and machine would become one. New research at Tel Aviv University is making this futuristic "vision" of bionics a reality.

Prof. Yael Hanein of Tel Aviv University's School of Electrical Engineering has foundational research that may give sight to blind eyes, merging retinal nerves with electrodes to stimulate cell growth. Successful so far in animal models, this research may one day lay the groundwork for retinal implants in people.

But that's a way off, she says. Until then, her half-human, half-machine invention can be used by drug developers investigating new compounds or formulations to treat delicate nerve tissues in the brain. Prof. Hanein's research group published its work recently in the journal Nanotechnology.

Implanting the idea

"We're working to interface man-made technology with neurons," says Prof. Hanein. "It can be helpful in in vitro and in in vivo applications, and provides an understanding of how neurons work so we can build better devices and drugs," she says.

She's developed a spaghetti like mass of nano-sized (one-millionth of a millimetre) carbon tubes, and using an electric current has managed to coax living neurons from the brains of rats to grow on this man-made structure. The growth of living cells on the nano substrate is a very complicated process, she says, but they adhere well to the structure, fusing with the synthetic electrical and physical interface. Using the new technology developed in Prof. Hanein’s laboratory, her graduate student Mark Shein has been observing how neurons communicate and work together.

"We are attempting to answer very basic questions in science," Prof. Hanein explains. "Neurons migrate and assemble themselves, and using approaches we've developed, we are now able to 'listen' to the way the neurons fire and communicate with one another using electrical impulses. Listening to neurons 'talking' allows us to answer the most basic questions of how groups of nerves work together. If we can investigate functional neuronal networks in the lab, we can study what can’t be seen or heard in the complete brain, where there are too many signals in one place."

Paging Steve Austin

One application of Prof. Hanein's research is a new approach to aid people with retinal degeneration diseases. There are several retinal diseases which are incurable, such as retinitis pigmentosa, and some researchers are investigating a prosthetic device which could replace the damaged cells.

"Neurons like to form good links with our special nanotechnology, and we're now investigating applications for retinal implants," says Prof. Hanein. "Our retinal implant attempts to replace activity in places of the damaged cells, and in the case of retinal diseases, the damaged photoreceptors."

The team's major breakthrough is creating these man-made living "devices" on a flexible nano-material suited for the small area in the eye where new neuron connection growth would be needed. This is the first step in a long clinical process that may lead to improved vision — and perhaps, one day, a real-life six million dollar man."

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Should Olympics and Paralympics

Posted by Ralph | 7:19 PM

In our most recent poll on this and the Blenz Community site we asked our readers “Do you think the Paralympic Games should be held at the same time as the Olympic Games?” The results are in: Yes 63% versus No 37%. Interesting!

Paralympic Symbol
Almost two thirds of voters think these largest sports competitions for people with the highest athletic ability belong together. The name “Paralympics” actually supports that point of view: “Paralympics” has its roots in the Greek prefix “para-” (in this context, “beside” or “alongside”); hence “Paralympics” translates into “alongside the Olympics”, and may also be interpreted as “Parallel Olympics”.

The New Zealand Winter Games in August 2009 embraced the concept of “Parallel Athletic Competition” by mixing the timetables for able-bodied and disabled athletes. They were the first major event where adaptive athletes competed on the same course on the same day as able-bodied athletes. So the idea of athletic inclusion has already been realised on a smaller scale. Why not take it to the next level?

Olympic Flag
Benefits of holding the Olympics and Paralympics at the same time could be amongst others:

•Greater momentum for these two events ultimately raising the profile of both competitions
•Higher integration and overall efficiency in the areas of organisation, publicity and operations
•Message of inclusiveness
I think that delivering the Olympic and Paralympic Games in a combined event – we could call it “The Joint Games” – would pose an amazing opportunity. As in other cases, when two or more parties put their intentions and energies together, something much bigger is being born than the plain sum total of the individual components.

Can you imagine the degree of inspiration able-bodied and disabled athletes could draw from each other and share with the world? And how about stretching the imagination even further to the possibility of disabled athletes competing with able-bodied athletes, at least in a few disciplines? Is that a possibility for the future?

Coming Together
Looking at our world, it’s time for more inclusion and less separation on a larger scale. One joint showcase for the athletic values of hope, excellence, respect, harmony, friendship and equality would be a milestone in human history. Combining the Olympic motto ‘Faster – Higher – Stronger’ with the Paralympic ‘Spirit in Motion’ would establish a solid foundation for athletic excellence, global connection and human inspiration beyond anything known before. People seem to be ready for it.

So which host city will be the first one to dare and hold “The Joint Games”?


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Paralympics wrap up

Posted by Ralph | 7:13 PM

While the US didn't lead the podium in the Paralympics and fell fifth behind Russia, Germany, Canada, and the Ukraine, our Olympians had some amazing accomplishments worth noting!

Our four gold medals went to the Sled Hockey team, who triumphed over Japan in a stunning 2-0 final on March 20th, to Stephani Victor in the sit ski super combined, and to Alana Nichols who stole two golds in sit skiing in the downhill and GS events.

Nichols didn't stop there, however, the 27 year old athlete from New Mexico took silver in the Super G and bronze in the Super Combined, the most of any US Paralympic representative.

The four other silver medals went to Laurie Stephens in women's Downhill sitting, Mark Bathum in mens's Downhill VI, Stephani Victor in both GS and Slalom sitting.

The three other bronze medals to go home with the US team went to Danelle Umstead in both Super Combined VI and Downhill VI, as well as to Andy Soule in the mens' Biathlon 2.4km Pursuit sitting.

Great job to all our Paralympians for their triumph over tragedy and for representing our country at the Vancouver games!


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Posted by Ralph | 11:03 PM

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Posted by Ralph | 2:46 PM

Has any body been to CafePress? They have some hilarious products for us "dis"abled folks

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2010 Paralympic medal count

Posted by Ralph | 10:56 AM

United States Gold 9 Silver 15 Bronze 13
Germany Gold 10 Silver 13 Bronze 7
Canada Gold 14 Silver 7 Bronze 5
Norway Gold 9 Silver 8 Bronze 6
Austria Gold 4 Silver 6 Bronze 6
Russian Federation Gold 6 Silver 6 Bronze 6
Korea Gold 6 Silver 6 Bronze 2
China Gold 5 Silver 2 Bronze 4
Sweden Gold 5 Silver 2 Bronze 4
France Gold 2 Silver 3 Bronze 6
Switzerland Gold 6 Silver 0 Bronze 3
Netherlands Gold 4 Silver 1 Bronze 3
Czech Republic Gold 2 Silver 0 Bronze 4
Poland Gold 1 Silver 3 Bronze 2
Italy Gold 1 Silver 1 Bronze
Japan Gold O Silver 3 Bronze 3
Finland Gold 0 Silver 1 Bronze 4
Australia Gold 2 Silver 1 Bronze 0
Belarus Gold 1 Silver 1 Bronze 1
Slovakia Gold 1 Silver 1 Bronze 1
Croatia Gold 0 Silver 2 Bronze 1
Slovenia Gold 0 Silver 2 Bronze 1
Latvia Gold 0 Silver 2 Bronze 0
Great Britain Gold 1 Silver 0 Bronze 0
Estonia Gold 0 Silver 1 Bronze 0
Kazakhstan Gold 0 Silver 1 Bronze 0

Pretty good that every country has at least 1 medal!

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Russians top paralympic medal count

Posted by Ralph | 11:12 AM

Russia's athletes have got off to a great start at the Paralympics in Vancouver. They top the medals table with three gold, three silver and two bronze after the first day of competition.

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