Where's Captain Cyborg gone?
This is one experiment I'd dearly love him to take part in :-D
Israeli boffins may be on the road to building artificial, living human brains which can function without a body to support them. Honest. According to an article in yesterday's Scientific American, Tel Aviv university researchers led by biophysicist Eshel ben-Jacob have manipulated cultured human brain cells so as to "imprint …
Either a lot of you people are religious zealots who hate to see scientific advances, or you're jealous it's not our country (UK) leading the way.
Personally, whilst our country is ran by idiots who ban these things and inhabited by people who are upset by anything other than grass and caves, we'll never advance enough to call ourselves part of the new gen world.
So you don't like the idea of living computers, space travel or biological research? Well if that's the case (of course it is!), you should go back to the theatre, attend garden shows and stop using your car!
Wake up or shut up, thats what I say! ;)
"picrotoxin, a cocktail of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA)."
Nobody who actually understands chemistry or biology could have written this gibberish. Even just in terms of plain English, the idea of having a "cocktail" of one thing is meaningless nonsense, but whatever the language barrier that might be involved not even a first-level undergrad would confuse a biologically active chemical with its antagonist.
Picrotoxin is not GABA nor is it made out of GABA; it is just an unrelated chemical that happens to be similarly-enough shaped to GABA that it can act on the same receptors, where it interferes with the normal action of GABA on those receptors.
More ignorance of fundamental biology from the SciAm article itself:
" According to Ben-Jacob, previous attempts to trigger the cells to create a repeating pattern of signals sent from neuron to neuron in a population—which neuroscientists believe constitutes the formation of a memory in the context of performing a task "
No they don't. Neuroscientists believe that long-lasting alterations in the strength of synaptic connections constitute the formation of a memory. That's why when you go under anaesthetic and the electrical activity in most of your brain is suppressed, when you wake up afterwards you haven't forgotten how to walk or anything. The temporary patterns of activity were all lost, but the permanent changes in connections and connection strengths remain.
"these findings hint chemical signaling mechanisms might play a crucial role in memory and learning in task-performing in vivo networks."
No! Never! Sorry, but this is not news, this has been known for many many years. Chemical signalling is pretty much the only way nerve cells in the brain communicate. (Yes, there are probably some cells with gap junctions in there, but there is no significant electrical field across the synaptic cleft, which is where most nerve-to-nerve communication takes place).
Hmmm. Having finished the SciAm article, I now see it doesn't use the word "cocktail" at all. But you have put it in quote marks in your article, so it really ought to be a direct quote from somewhere, it would be seriously misleading for you to make up your own wording and present it as reported speech. Where /did/ the phrase originate?
Anyway, the point remains: this guy is a physicist, and he is getting very overexcited about having discovered a bunch of stuff that *biologists* have known for a long time.
Hm... so all I need to stop the cyborg invasion is to type that cheat code on my Pyro-GX? ;)
It looks like A.I. is not going to be so Artificial if they manage to do an *actual* neural network. Though I wonder what are the implications of "re-animating" dead brain cells ....
The SciAm article no longer uses the word "cocktail," true. But it did when first written.
Check out the Google cache version, which embarrassed science hacks can't so easily change:
You sir, I feel, are on the side of the crazed Boffins intent on destroying our society with your fiendish brains-in-a-jar tanks.
Your propaganda trying to allay our fears with scientific mumbo-jumbo may include large amounts of accuracy, but won't distract us from the vision of cyborg operated death machines rolling over our front lawns.
No, you say it's bullshit, but THEY always say that - and clearly you are one of THEM - you know way too much not to be.
Mr Page I salute you and your timely warning, set phasers to murder death kill, we'll see you in the trenches..
I think the most worrying conclusion to this technology is the potential for imprinting selected memories. Can you imagine creating cyborg warriors that have had carefully contructed memories designed to produce total fanatics?
Some thing any extreme organisation would give their collective right arms for. Imagine hordes of fanatical constructs with religio/political axes to grind! Bring back Skynet!
Hmmmm....perhaps the good Mad Scientists(tm) of Tel Aviv should also take a look at "BEAR" as reported on Slashdot, the Beeb and in this weeks New Scientist as a likely candidate for implanting Brains-In-A-Can. Now there's a machine that appears to know the meaning of rising up (and runing away really fast I would hope).
I started reading Scientific American in 1975. In those days it was a 'proper' science publication on a par with New Scientist and contained articles that were informative, intellectualy challenging and very well written.
Now, sadly, it's turned into a coffee table magazine that glosses over difficult concepts and delivers easily skimmed summaries.
The Reg's treatment of this story is all that SciAm deserves.
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