Thursday, February 28, 2013

What a surprise ....not

The idea that intelligence can be measured by IQ tests alone is a fallacy according to the largest single study into human cognition which found that it comprises of at least three distinct mental traits.

IQ tests have been used for decades to assess intelligence but they are fundamentally flawed because they do not take into account the complex nature of the human intellect and its different components, the study found.

The results question the validity of controversial studies of intelligence based on IQ tests which have drawn links between intellectual ability race, gender and social class and led to highly contentious claims that some groups of people are inherently less intelligent that other groups.

Instead of a general measure of intelligence epitomised by the intelligence quotient (IQ), intellectual ability consists of short-term memory, reasoning and verbal agility.

 Although these interact with one another they are handled by three distinct nerve “circuits” in the brain, the scientists found.

The results disprove once and for all the idea that a single measure of intelligence, such as IQ, is enough to capture all of the differences in cognitive ability that we see between people,” said Roger Highfield, director of external affairs at the Science Museum in London.

Instead, several different circuits contribute to intelligence, each with its own unique capacity. 

A person may well be good in one of these areas, but they are just as likely to be bad in the other two,” said Dr Highfield, a co-author of the study published in the journal Neuron.

The research involved an on-line survey of more than 100,000 people from around the world who were asked to complete 12 mental tests for measuring different aspects of cognitive ability, such as memory, reasoning, attention and planning.

The researchers took a representative sample of 46,000 people and analysed how they performed. 

They found there were three distinct components to cognitive ability: short-term memory, reasoning and a verbal component.

Professor Adrian Owen of the University of Western Ontario in Canada said that the uptake for the tests was astonishing. 

The scientists expected a few hundred volunteers to spend the half hour it took to complete the on-line tests, but in the end they got thousands from every corner of the world, Professor Owen said.

The scientists found that no single component, or IQ, could explain all the variations revealed by the tests. 

The researcher then analysed the brain circuitry of 16 participants with a hospital MRI scanner and found that the three separate components corresponded to three distinct patterns of neural activity in the brain.

It has always seemed to be odd that we like to call the human brain the most complex known object in the Universe, yet many of us are still prepared to accept that we can measure brain function by doing a few so-called IQ tests,” Dr Highfield said.

For a century or more many people have thought that we can distinguish between people, or indeed populations, based on the idea of general intelligence which is often talked about in terms of a single number: IQ. 

We have shown here that’s just wrong,” he said.

Studies over the past 50 years based on IQ tests have suggested that there could be inherent differences in intelligence between racial groups, social classes and between men and women, but these conclusions are undermined by the latest findings, Dr Highfield said.

We already know that, from a scientific point of view, the notion of race is meaningless. 

Genetic differences do not map on to traditional measurements of skin colour, hair type, body proportions and skull measurements. 

Now we have shown that IQ is meaningless too,” Dr Highfield said.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Repurposing they call it

It was probably a bad day at the lab when scientists at the US drug group Pfizer's now defunct Sandwich research centre realised an angina treatment they were developing – a compound called sildenafil – simply didn't work.
It might have been the end of the road for compound UK-92,480 but the drug did have an interesting side-effect: three days after swallowing the pill the male volunteers testing the medicine got a prolonged erection.
The treatment was refined and the time delay reduced. It was branded as Viagra and has become a blockbuster, prescribed for erectile dysfunction.
As Ian Osterloh, who led its development, recounts: "None of us at Pfizer thought much of the side-effect at the time. 

I remember thinking that even if it did work, who would want to take a drug on a Wednesday to get an erection on a Saturday?"
But today the little blue pill is prescribed to millions of men all over the world and made Pfizer nearly $2bn in sales last year.
It isn't the only drug originally tested for one purpose that has become a treatment for another. 

Rogaine, also by Pfizer, was originally developed to treat high blood pressure but is now a successful treatment for hair loss.
Finding new uses for old drugs is a growth business as big pharma struggles to come up with new blockbuster drugs. 

Traditionally pharmaceutical companies test hundreds of thousands of compounds for so-called "target binding" in the hunt for new blockbusters. 

It takes 10-15 years to find a medicine that works and is safe, at a typical cost of $1.3bn.
Recycling old compounds for new uses is far cheaper – and faster. 

The idea – known in the drugs' business as repositioning or repurposing – was first floated in the early 1990s but has gained momentum as the pipeline of potential blockbusters has dried up. 

A number of university-based spin-outs and small biotech companies have been set up to find new uses for old drugs that were shelved because they didn't work. 

They take advantage of the declining cost of screening, with some compound libraries – such as the Johns Hopkins library, which includes 3,500 drugs – available for screening at a small charge.
"There will be no more blockbusters and it's a massive worry for the industry," says Dr Farid Khan, a former GlaxoSmithKline executive who is about to launch PharmaKure, a spin-out from the University of Manchester.
Existing drugs have been shown to be safe in patients, so if these drugs could be found to work for other diseases, then this would drastically reduce drug development costs and risks. 

Of 30,000 drugs in the world, 25,000 are ex-patent – it's a free-for-all.
He thinks he may have stumbled across a potential preventative drug for Alzheimer's. 

PK-048 was first developed in the 1980s for Parkinson's by Abbott Laboratories and had never been tested for the most common form of senile dementia, which affects more than 15 million people worldwide. 

Trials with chimpanzees suggested it can be taken orally, is non-toxic and crosses the blood-brain barrier in primates, which is vital for an Alzheimer's drug.
Khan and his business partner Andrew Doig, a professor at Manchester University and an expert on Alzheimer's, have tested the drug and found it blocks the toxic effects of beta-amyloid plaques before they kill brain cells, which is thought to be the cause of the debilitating disease. 

The four Alzheimer's drugs on the market alleviate symptoms but offer no cure. 

Numerous medicines are being developed, for example by Astra Zeneca in partnership with Axerion, but there have been failures in recent clinical trials,such as Eli Lilly's experimental drug.
Khan and Doig believe it is possible their drug could act as a prophylactic medicine for patients diagnosed early and those who are at high risk of getting Alzheimer's. 

Khan is hopeful he can raise £1m to fund trials of the drug in mice and humans, with US venture capitalists having shown interest, but he is also looking for a partnership with a big pharmaceutical company in the long run.
Dr Aris Persidis, president and co-founder of the US drug repositioning firm Biovista, points out that between 2007 and 2009, 30% of all newly marketed medicines were either existing drugs or new formulations of old drugs. 

Typically, repositioning is done by accident, or in a limited way," he wrote in an article on drug repositioning last year.
New technologies however enable the systematic evaluation of any drug or mechanism of action against any disease.
Biovista is in the process of filing for novel use patents for 12 drugs with potential in Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, epilepsy, depression and sleep disorders.

Clive Morris, head of the new opportunities division at AstraZeneca, says medicines that have already been in clinical trials can skip the early phase of drug development and go straight into phase two (mid-stage) trials, which can save three to five years. 

AstraZeneca is now testing a failed diabetes and obesity drug for use as a glaucoma treatment.
The big drug makers are also offering compounds to other researchers. 

Last month, AstraZeneca made 22 failed medicines available to academics through a partnership with the Medical Research Council and it also struck a £180m partnership with its bigger rival Glaxo Smith Kline in May to boost the faltering development of new antibiotics, dubbed New Drugs4BadBugs.

Repositioned drugs

Viagra – developed by Pfizer for heart disease, then became a blockbuster drug for erectile dysfunction
Rogaine – another Pfizer discovery, originally used to treat high blood pressure, now a treatment for hair loss
Cymbalta – initially developed by Eli Lilly as an antidepressant, but later approved for fibromyalgia, a long-term condition which causes pain all over the body
Gemzar – an Eli Lilly antiviral which became a cancer drug
Evista – an Eli Lilly birth control drug that was repositioned as an osteoporosis treatment and can also prevent breast cancer
Aspirin – developed by Bayer in 1897, originally for inflammation and pain, but now also used as an antiplatelet drug for treating and preventing heart attacks and strokes. 

One of the most widely used drugs in the world
Ibuprofen – anti-inflammatory drug, developed by Boots in the 1960s as a treatment for hangovers and rheumatoid arthritis, which recent studies show can help protect against Parkinson's disease

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

More on smells

Smells can evoke memories. 

The scent of a certain perfume can prompt visions of a first love, perhaps. 

Smells can provide comfort, as any practitioner of aromatherapy will tell you. 

And smells can encourage you to buy something.

Which is why clever estate agents often bake cookies in homes they're trying to sell.

Marketing experts at Washington State University (WSU) and Switzerland's University of St. Gallen wanted to find out which scents are most effective at getting consumers into a "shopping state of mind." 

In the Journal of Retailing, they report that simple scents are better.

They exposed hundreds of Swiss shoppers to a simple orange scent and to the more complex aroma of orange-basil and green tea. 

A look at the cash register receipts revealed a bump in sales when it was just the scent of orange in the air.

An uncomplicated scent is also a benefit for doing cognitive tasks. 

WSU researchers exposed students to different scent conditions as they worked on word problems. 

The students solved more problems in less time when the simple scent was in the air, than they did when there was just the complex scent or none at all.

Eric Spangenberg, dean of WSU's College of Business, says a simple scent is easier for the brain to process, so the mind can better focus on thinking, working...or shopping.

Conversely of course unpleasant smells really do influence outcomes.

None of us need to be told that the smell of stale garlic on someones breath is a real turn off.

The question is are unpleasant smells being deliberately used to upset or deter our behavior?

Who knows however just as we enjoy pleasant smells the converse is also true.

And it would not surprise if unscrupulous people were also using unpleasant smells as a device to achieve their nefarious ends!

Monday, February 25, 2013

As it was

Learning and sin were synonymous with the early Christians

It is evident that with the exception of Paul and Clement of Alexandria.

Both of whom were initiated into the mysteries.

None of the fathers knew much of the truth themselves.

They were mostly uneducated.

Ignorant people.

And if such as Augustine and Lactantius, or again the venerable Bede and others were so painfully ignorant until the time of Galileo.

Of the most vital truths taught in the Pagan temples -

Of the rotundity of the earth, for example.

Leaving the heliocentric system out of the question

How great must have been the ignorance of the rest!

And from these men came endless manipulation.

Manipulation designed to increase their power.

Pouring hate on those with other beliefs.

The greatest crime that was ever perpetrated on mankind was committed on that day when the first priest invented that first prayer with a selfish object in view.

And those of any religion who continue to do so to this day.

A God who is asked to send defeat and death to thousands of his enemies.

To bless the arms of the worshiper.

It is this idea of God that has fostered selfishness in man.

Depriving him of his self reliance.

Telling him sotires of orignal sin

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Magnets in your clothes

Spend some time with the company’s demo video and you’ll get a sense of what’s possible. 
It’s like Lego for clothes, and it’s hard not to think about super-spy disguises and Superman in a phone booth as you watch the transformations.

At its core, Affectation’s magnetic closures are a simple technology. 

After all, we know how magnets work. 

Where the design comes in is in how the magnets are embedded in the clothes to become functional garments.

A garment goes through a lot,” says Stikeleather.

It sits close to the skin, taking the worst that our bodies and the environment can dish out. 

It needs to survive being worn, sweated in, spilled on, cleaned, tumbled, ironed, pressed, and all the while remaining comfortable. 

It can be subjected to temperatures ranging from below freezing to above 150 in a home clothes dryer. 

It’s a disaster when you leave your gadget in the wash, yet we expect our clothing to survive that same treatment hundreds of times over its lifetime.

Keeping the clothing comfortable and the fasteners invisible meant figuring out which of the rare-earth magnets can survive these conditions and finding an interfacing fabric that could safely house them. 

Once the engineering had been worked out, it was a matter of user-testing the clothes to find places where the magnets could sit naturally, while doing some clever things with shapes and polarity to ensure the various accessories were compatible and reversible.

The process for doing that involves getting models into the lab and testing out fits, beginning with muslin as a kind of sketch material to try out designs, before going on to research fabric and colors, with an eye toward future trends in fashion. 

This in turn leads to a prototype garment, which is tested again on a model. 

We do a lot of self-testing, Stikeleather says. 

“I’ve gone to trade shows wearing this stuff and come back with a laundry list of things that need to be changed.”

A lot of designers go through the same process,” says Stikeleather. 

They just don’t have to go through the worrying about interchangeability. 

Because Affectation is designed to be an interchangeable system of garments and add-ons, an eye needs to be kept on ensuring that magnets will end up in similar positions across a variety of outfits.

Stikeleather says that Kickstarter is a natural continuation of this strategy. 

The kind of people who invest in a Kickstarter tend to be early adopters who are willing try out new ideas and offer their feedback. 

He is quick to emphasize that the products won’t be shoddy, but this is a 1.0 and there will always be room for improvement. 

In return, he is offering a color combination of green and charcoal, and a pledge that Affectation will never repeat that combination after the Kickstarter collection.

Stikeleather, who like all clothing designers must try to make a living by glimpsing the future, sees his product as part of a larger move toward bottom-up fashion.

When I saw that trend toward mass customization,” he says, 

I wanted to outsource the fashion design to the customer. I provide the modular clothing system and you put it together however you want.

Maybe there’ll be an API.

Once clothes have gotten past the boring bits as far as keeping you warm and covering up your nakedness, a lot of the meaning comes from the accents and details. Affectation allows you to change that, like a super-spy.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Not bad

When the white missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land.  They said 'Let us pray.'  We closed our eyes.  When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.
            ~ Desmond Tutu 

America is the only country where a significant proportion of the population believes that professional wrestling is real but the moon landing was faked.
            ~ David Letterman 

I'm not a paranoid, deranged millionaire.  God dammit, I'm a billionaire.
            ~ Howard Hughes 

After the game, the King and the pawn go into the same box.
            ~ Italian proverb

Men are like linoleum floors.  Lay 'em right and you can walk all over them for thirty years.
            ~ Betsy Salkind 

The only reason they say 'Women and children first' is to test the strength of the lifeboats.
            ~ Jean Kerr 

I've been married to a communist and a fascist, and neither would take out the garbage.
            ~ Zsa Zsa Gabor 

You know you're a redneck if your home has wheels and your car doesn't.
            ~ Jeff Foxworthy 

When a man opens a car door for his wife, it's either a new car or a new wife.
            ~ Prince Philip 

A computer once beat me at chess, but it was no match for me at kickboxing.
            ~ Emo Philips. 

Wood burns faster when you have to cut and chop it yourself.
            ~ Harrison Ford 

The best cure for sea sickness, is to sit under a tree.
            ~ Spike Milligan 

Lawyers believe a man is innocent until proven broke.
            ~ Robin Hall 

Kill one man and you're a murderer, kill a million and you're a conqueror.
            ~ Jean Rostand. 

Having more money doesn't make you happier.  I have 50 million dollars but I'm just as happy as when I had 48 million.
            ~ Arnold Schwarzenegger. 

We are here on earth to do good unto others.  What the others are here for, I have no idea.
            ~ WH Auden 

In hotel rooms I worry.  I can't be the only guy who sits on the furniture naked.
            ~ Jonathan Katz 

If life were fair Elvis would still be alive today and all the impersonators would be dead.
            ~ Johnny Carson 

I don't believe in astrology.  I am a Sagittarius and we're very skeptical.
            ~ Arthur C Clarke 

Hollywood must be the only place on earth where you can be fired by a man wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a baseball cap.
            ~ Steve Martin

Home cooking.  Where many a man thinks his wife is.
            ~ Jimmy Durante 

As I hurtled through space, one thought kept crossing my mind - every part of this rocket was supplied by the lowest bidder.
            ~ John Glenn

If toast always lands butter-side down, and cats always land on their feet, what happens if you strap toast on the back of a cat?
            ~ Steven Wright 

America is so advanced that even the chairs are electric.
            ~ Doug Hamwell 

The first piece of luggage on the carousel never belongs to anyone.
            ~ George Roberts 

If God had intended us to fly he would have made it easier to get to the airport
            ~ Jonathan Winters 

I have kleptomania, but when it gets bad, I take something for it.
            ~ Robert Benchley

Friday, February 22, 2013

Touchless world on the way

So you've lost your TV remote control.

Not to worry, says a tiny Israeli start-up company called XTR3D - soon you'll be able to flick through channels and adjust the volume using only... your hand.
You'll just have to turn your palm towards the screen, and zap away without ever getting off the couch.
And no need for under-the-skin electronics or fancy microchips.
Instead, the TV - or rather gesture recognition software installed inside - will "read" your moves and execute appropriate commands, without any need for physically pressing any buttons.
Based in Tel Aviv, XTR3D is one of the developers of such motion capture technology, and it has just received $8m (£5m) investment bound to give "touchless" tech another push - and according to the firm, bring the first motion control smartphone into the market as early as next year.
US electronics giant Texas Instruments is among the investors.
Gesture-controlled GPS deviceUsing a GPS device without touching it while driving could be safer
Although the Israeli firm follows in the footsteps of Microsoft's Kinect, the multi-directional gesture control gaming console that was launched last year and has since been selling like hot cakes despite the average $200 price tag, its technology is quite different.

Start Quote

Our target is to penetrate the market, so it will be something for everyone to try out”
Dor GivonXTR3D
The Kinect has depth sensors, multi-array microphones and RGB cameras that provide the software with the information it needs to track both voice and gestures.
XTR3D, on the other hand, uses ordinary 2D cameras - such as a webcam of a computer or the one in your smartphone - to extract 3D out of a 2D image.
This creates the same three-dimensional effect as on the Kinect.
According to the Tel Aviv start-up's spokesman Roy Ramati, XTR3D's technology has all the advantages of a 3D camera without any of the disadvantages.

It can work in broad daylight, is much cheaper and uses a lot less power.
And it can be installed into any consumer electronics device.
Dor Givon, XTR3D's founder and chief technical officer, adds that it is even possible to play a proper Kinect game on a regular laptop that has the software, touchlessly controlling the device from a distance of a few centimetres to up to 5m away.
New devices will have the interface embedded in them, with older ones you will be able to download the software from the app store.
Besides gaming and switching TV channels, the existing prototypes include a PC where it is possible to flip through a PowerPoint presentation just by waving your hand, a tablet and a smartphone that have features such as using gestures to create the effect of a joystick, to click, swipe, zoom in and out with a pinch gesture, and a GPS device that can be controlled touchlessly while driving.
Despite being at the forefront of gesture-controlled technology, XTR3D is not the only firm aiming to make our world touchless.
Various kinds of motion detection have been around for a while.

Start Quote

Gesture is definitely heating up!”
Francis MacDougallQualcomm
For instance, simple gesture recognition such as hovering your hand near a water tap or a toilet flush to activate them are becoming more and more common.
And after Microsoft paved the way with Kinect, bringing new digital dimensions to the gaming world, other companies followed.
Microsoft itself is now actively trying to expand Kinect's use into other industries.
Recently, it announced that it would release a commercial version of the Kinect software development kit in early 2012.
Microsoft has also teamed up with about 200 businesses in more than 20 countries - among them car manufacturer Toyota and digital advertising firm Razorfish - for Kinect to reach well beyond gaming.
The Kinect can sense your entire body for interaction with the device, and we're only scratching the surface of what can be done because beyond computing there's a lot of scenarios where this kind of natural user interaction could be really powerful, a real paradigm shift.
And the creator of the chip that powers the motion-sensing part of the Kinect, an Israeli company called PrimeSense, is now selling a gadget that has the same hardware as Microsoft's device.
Once hooked up to a regular computer, it can provide a Kinect-like experience without the Kinect.
Apple has also filed patents that involve allowing users to touchlessly "throw" content from one device to another, for example from a tablet onto your TV screen.
Another electronics giant, mobile chip maker Qualcomm, has recently bought a small Canadian firm GestureTek.
It targets three devices: tablets (including eReaders), smartphones and TVs, and uses a combination of cameras and ultrasound.
Gesture-controlled tabletOrdinary 2D cameras and XTR3D software turn your tablet into a motion-control device
Ultrasound sensors are there for close range "no-look" gesture control - they pick up movements with help of a microphone instead of an optical camera, explains Qualcomm's director of technology Francis MacDougall.
One issue the Kinect has is an inability to track close to a device.

The default design can track no closer than 50cm - great for TVs but not so good for tablets and smart phones.
So Qualcomm has placed multiple audio sensors - microphones - into their handset designs to isolate the voice location in 3D space while filtering out everything else.
This technique is extremely low power and can track the hand within one to 15cm of the phone."
Touchless world
Imagine that you are driving a car and your child is on the back seat watching a movie on a tablet.

You don't have to divert your attention from the road, but just by making a gesture near the tablet you would be able to pause it or turn it off.
And such possibilities are endless.
These touchless features are pretty much what other companies working in the area have been promising to deliver, but one that relates to TV control is quite unique to GestureTek.For instance, how about answering a phone when you're cooking, eating or driving without touching the screen or even having to look at it?

Or turning pages on an eReader with swipe gestures?

Or skipping to the next song with a swipe or pausing it with a palm raised?
We're working on face recognition that will be used to identify each member of the family and bring up custom interfaces as part of a next generation 'smart TV' interface," says Mr MacDougall.
To achieve that, the firm is turning to optical solutions, similar to those used by XTR3D - the standard forward-facing 2D camera and in some cases a stereo set-up.

Two standard 2D camera sensors spaced a small distance apart to calculate the 3D location of any features in the scene.
However the companies around the world are doing it - with regular or infrared cameras, or with ultrasound sensors,

One thing is certain..
Gesture is definitely heating up!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Do you

Own your gadgets or do they own you?
Until recently, I owned a mobile phone so chunky and ridiculous that people had started to laugh at it – including, memorably, the staff at the shop where I'd originally bought it. (In their defence, I'd had it since 2007, which is the Mesolithic period in phone years.) 
But if there's one thing psychology has taught us, it's that buying shiny gadgets is a guaranteed path to fulfilment, so I'm now the proud owner of a Nexus 4, a sleek, blemish-free slab of glass, 9mm thick.
Well, I say "proud owner". "Proud but with a background hum of anxiety" is more like it. 
Because it is, after all, a blemish-free slab of glass – which means I can never quite forget the risk of dropping or scratching it.
This affliction – some sufferers call it "gadget paranoia" – turns out to be widespread in this era of aesthetically wondrous smartphones, tablets and laptops, many either conceived by or copied from Apple's chief designer, Jonathan Ive. 
"OK, this is ruining my life," writes someone using the name Daikyouju at, "and maybe it's happening the same to some of you, too. 
I'm tired of buying microfibre cloths and expensive polishes, just for seeking perfection in my Apple gadgets, and worrying too much about them. How can I get over this?"
This underlying phenomenon isn't new: we've probably all known people who keep the plastic covers on the sofa, or who won't open books properly, for fear of cracking the spine. 
But never before has such fragile gorgeousness been so basic a part of the daily routine.
What's strange about gadget paranoia is how the standard I feel under pressure to maintain seems to emerge, so to speak, from the object itself, not from me. 
I bought the phone for its functions, not its beauty; but I got the beauty, too, and now that demands upkeep.
There's an echo here of Nassim Taleb's advice, in his book The Black Swan, to stop running for trains: 
"Missing a train is only painful if you run after it! 
Likewise, not matching the idea of success others expect from you is only painful if that's what you are seeking." 
Since reading that, I've stopped running for underground trains (and buses). 
I'll break that rule if I'm genuinely in danger of being late. 
But the mere fact that a train's about to leave isn't a reason to hurry – just as the fact that a gadget's blemish-free isn't a reason to keep it that way. 
How many other such dictates am I unwittingly following? 
It's unsettling to speculate.
The standard advice to gadget paranoiacs is, in essence, to get over it (or buy a protective case). 
"A few knocks along the way add character," argues Jamie Condliffe at 
"Those little scratches will remind you of things that actually happen in your life. 
I have a ding in mine from when I walked into a wall drunk. 
That was a good night."
Others tell of smashing their phones, then realising they're glad: the pressure's off. 
The easiest way to eliminate the stress of maintaining a perfect record in anything is to fail: thereafter, perfection's no longer an option. 
"I was at someone's house when they accepted delivery of their brand new motorcycle," recalls one contributor to the community site Ask MetaFilter. 
"First thing he did was reach down and grab a handful of gravel [and] throw it at the gas tank: 
'There, now I don't have to worry about that.' "