Psychiatry and Second Life
This podcast is a tour of the Virtual Hallucinations building on Davis Island in Second Life. The building simulates what it is like to suffer from the auditry and visual hallucinations associated with schizophrenia. I walked round the building in the company of the researcher behind the project Professor Peter Yellowlees. It's a very disturbing place to visit, but an effective illustration of the potential of virtual words. While it's impossible to know what it is like to suffer from schizophrenia unless one has the condition, this building is a good approximation, based upon actual patient testimony. It must be a tremendous help to psychiatrists hoping to better understand the affect of the illness on the way their patients view the world. Even hallucinations rendered in the crude visuals and audio of Second Life were very disorientating and not a little distressing.
The audio was recorded via Skype through a mixer with the audio output from second life routed through the PC's soundcard while skype was routed through a separate soundcard plugged into a the PCMA slot..enabling me to control the level of the audio halucinations while talking to Peter. Both outputs were put through a physical mixer enabling me to send a mix-minus back to Peter.
DARPA Grand Challenge Podcast
DARPA Grand Challenge: Finally the podcast, more a soundseeing tour, of the DARPA Grand Challenge, the $2million race for "robotic" cars. Motoring history was made on Sat. October 8th as a converted Volkswagen Touareg became the first vehicle to successfully navigate itself round the course, 131.6 miles of the Mojave desert. DARPA, the advanced research wing of the US Department of Defense organised the race, but didn't directly fund any of the teams who entered the challenge. Given the obvious applications of robot vehicles in Iraq and elsewhere, in research teams the race delivered " a lot of bang for their buck" and I suspect will be a model of its kind.
So what's next? The USAF already has robotic flight well under development with unmanned planes like the Predator; though these are remotely controlled the time-lag in relaying commands means they posses a small degree of autonomy already. Autonomy on the ground is hard to accomplish..there will always be too many variables for much more than routine applications - or "leader follower" type systems where a human is in the loop directing a convoy. To my mind the obvious next step is the Navy. Under the sea, even at shallow depths, the terrain is pretty uniform, obstacles are few and easily avoided with the same 3 dimensional possibilities available to aeroplanes. Transport ships should be the first to be replaced by robotic "liberty ships" or for hi-value assets ,robot submarines. Next expect an anti-ship version of the Predator; a small nuclear powered robot submersible. Without a human crew it shouldn't need to dock or surface, and should be capabable of diving to much greater depths. And it will be much less expensive to build than conventional submarines.
DARPA Grand Challenge
I'm at the DARPA Grand Challenge, the $2million desert race for self-navigating cars. I'll be pretty busy so blogging will be light. Updates from DARPA here They've just announced the course - it's131.6 miles, entirely within Nevada and the mojave desert; a couple of tunnel have been included with the intention of depriving teams of GPS data. Having had a look at the teams I'd say we're much more likely to get a result - last year you may recall the furthest distance travelled was 7.4miles. The picture is of team members putting the finishing touches to JackBot last night
Giant Squid (Architeuthis) Finally Caught on Film
Working some 600 miles south of Tokyo off the Bonin Islands, known in Japan as the Ogasawara Islands, they managed to photograph the creature with a robotic camera at a depth of 3,000 feet. During a struggle lasting more than four hours, the 26-foot-long animal took the proffered bait and eventually broke free, leaving behind an 18-foot length of tentacle.
Evidently while most scientists would give their right arm to photo this mysterious monster of the deep, the giant squid (who admittedly has seven more to spare) gave his to remain anonymous. Still it's a wonderful breakthrough and again makes me wonder why we are to spend billions to send men to a certainly barren rock parked in earth orbit when the creatures of the deep that lurk on our very shores remain so poorly understood and the scientist that study them remain relatively under-funded.
Media notes: Stand-by for anchors cracking the inevitable "that's an awful lot of sushi" pay-off line as another breakthrough in the biological sciences is relegated to an "and finally" slot in the network news.
Update: PZ Myers links to this stomach churning account of recent research in the sex lives of giant squid..don't read if the thought of super-sized cephalopod sperm packets is likely to put you off breakfast
The Red to Victory
New research by scientists at Durham University in the United Kingdom suggests that there is a small but quantifiable advantage to wearing red when playing sport. The finding can, the researchers think, be extended to other competitive situations. None of which explains why our brave Red Coats lost to the revolutionary rabble mustered by this former colony...but there you go. Still it does confirm my own view that if England ever want to win a Soccer World Cup they should revert to the cool red strip they wore so successfully in 1966.