University of Arkansas created a monitoring devise that gathers patient’s information and communicates it in real time to a physician, hospital, or patient via smart phone. The wireless monitoring system includes sensors, integrated into garments that communicate health information to smart phones or a computer to any location in the world. Some of the capabilities of the system include monitoring blood pressure, body temperature, respiratory rate, and oxygen consumptions. This is an innovative devise that can allow physicians to get patients information faster and provide better services.
There are many things I may never fully understand, such as why the Electoral College is still used in the United States, how anyone likes the taste of marzipan, and astrophysics. The LED lamp I am about to describe is also on that list.
The Mind Lamp, created by Psyleron in collaboration with the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) lab, is described as an "ambient mind-matter interaction lamp". The claim is that the lamp changes colors in real time based on quantum processes that have been shown to be influenced by the human mind. If I'm understanding this correctly, the key to the lamp's "quantum processes" is a device nestled inside it called a Random Event Generator (REG). Utilizing a process termed "electron tunneling", the REG takes electrons (with a variety of wave functions) from the environment and translates them into digital output. A microprocessor inside the lamp statistically analyzes this digital output, and based on patterns it finds, it adjusts the color of the lamp.
Let me just admit right now that even though I wrote the explanation above, I don't completely understand it. Concepts like "electron tunneling" and "quantum processes" are pretty foreign to me. However, if I were to try to translate that explanation into plainspeak, I would put it like this: The lamp senses and changes colors based on data from the environment, some of which might come from human consciousness. The question here is whether that means "I think of a color, and the lamp changes to that color" or "I have a mood, and the lamp reflects that mood with a color" or something else entirely. The researchers admit that they don't understand all the details, which is why this is a subject of ongoing research. (In fact, they were clever - they packaged this up as a consumer-friendly technology, and now they are reaping data on people's experiences via their reviews.)
Check out this video:
I find this lamp so intriguing, in part because I am having such a difficult time evaluating it. The skeptic in me starts listing the confounds (e.g., confirmation bias, when people only perceive effects that fit their expectations.) The logical part of me says that early research will always contain confounds, and these researchers are not hiding any of them. (The skeptic in me replies, "Yeah, like you can tell if you're being duped when it comes to electron tunneling and quantum science.") My imagination ignores them both and just thinks it's really cool, and wonders how else this technology could be used.
So there you have it. The lamps are $189.00 each, and you know what? I might just buy one someday.
Recently at work we’ve been exploring the potential for using information from brain imaging technologies to assess individual performance. For example, could we learn about how well a person multi-tasks by giving them some simple puzzles and scanning their brain? Anyway, this has been on my mind for the past few weeks, and then I heard this story on NPR this morning that really made me think.
A neuroscientist named James Fallon has been studying the brains of serial killers, and has noted that a specific part of a psychopath’s brain is dormant – the orbital cortex, which controls impulses and has been linked to rage and violence when dormant. Upon nudging from his own mother, he started poking around his ancestry to find the “cuckoos” that she suspected were there. Among many other less-well-known serial killers, he found that he was actually related to Lizzie Borden. You know the old tune, “Lizzie Borden took an axe, gave her mother forty whacks, when she saw what she had done, she gave her father forty-one”. (As an aside here, she shares a birthday with me – July 19th. I visited the Lizzie Borden Bed and Breakfast a couple of years ago… talk about creeeeeeepy! I also found a terrible metal band named after her. Whoa.)
Once you find Lizzie Borden in your family tree, the only thing to do is to find out whether your brain resembles that of a psychopathic murderer’s. And that’s exactly what James Fallon found. He had the same dormant orbital cortex in his PET scan. He also found what is referred to as the “warrior gene” in his DNA. According to his scientific findings, he should have been a murderer or at least full of rage. So why wasn’t he?
With a little digging, James found that almost all of the psychopath’s brains that were scanned in prison had experienced some sort of childhood abuse or violence. Lucky for him, James didn’t experience any kind of abuse as a child. This finding totally changed his mind about nature vs. nurture. He used to be almost 100% on the nature side of the argument, but looking at his own scientific data he had to conclude that nurture plays a bigger role than he originally thought.
This brings us to the following question: should we assume that everyone’s development is based on the same relative amount of nature and nurture? Or, in other words, might nurture play a bigger role in one person’s development, while nature is primary in another’s development? What might this mean for how the results of imaging technologies are interpreted and used?