Sci-tech

Liar Liar, Brain's on Fire

“We asked Stacey Anne, ‘Have you ever conducted inappropriate relations with your brother’s gardener’s wife’s husband?’ She answered, ‘No’. Well, we can reveal, she was in fact…LYING.”

Just an average day on the Jeremy Kyle Show. The lie detector tests used on many popular daytime TV shows are traditional polygraph tests, where the participant is hooked up to a machine that typically measures a variety of physiological variables, including blood pressure and the moisture levels of the skin, whilst being asked a series of questions. The validity of these tests, however, has long been doubted.

Lying and deception are a part of everyday life, whether it be a small, ‘selfless’ lie, like telling someone a dress looks good on them when it clearly resembles a potato sack, or a more consequential lie, like lying in a criminal investigation. Read more »

The Hitchhiker's guide to the Twitterverse

The following article was originally a blog post by Prof Dorothy Bishop and has been edited for publication with her permission.

 Created a mere five years ago, Twitter is a micro-blogging platform through which hundreds of millions of users regularly express their views and interests in 'tweets' of no more than 140 characters. If I tell people I’m on Twitter, I tend to get one of three reactions: Read more »

Masters of the Twitterverse

Since its inception in 2006, micro-blogging service Twitter has flourished, garnering endorsements from such celebrity bloggers as Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) and scientists like Simon Singh (@SLSingh) and Brian Cox (@ProfBrianCox). Adoption has spread from a niche following in the ‘new media’ of blogs and social networks to the point where even the hacks in ‘old media’ (aka the newspapers) have now become ‘twits’. Read more »

Putting Our Heads Together

A surprising resource is revolutionizing how we solve problems and get information. It is available in great abundance and can be harvested for almost nothing. This resource is the simple power of human thought.

We all know that computers can beat us at chess, find enormous prime numbers and remember our friends’ birthdays. If a task involves only calculations and large quantities of information, then a computer is perfect for the job. On the other hand, ask your computer to find the photos of a lovely peacock that you took on your last holiday, and it’s likely to throw in a picture of an elderly relative. Of course, any of your friends could do a much better job, but only if you can persuade them to bother. The emerging field of human computation is doing just that by using computer games to harness human brainpower. Read more »

GM fish coming to your plate? So what!

If I have to read another article about ‘Frankenfish’ or ‘Frankensalmon’, I might require psychiatric treatment. These articles evoke images of double-headed salmon and seven-finned abominations. Why all the fuss? In the US, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will soon allow genetically modified (GM) salmon made by AquaBounty to be sold–unlabelled–on the US market. There are no plans yet to sell them in the UK, but the story was still covered extensively by the British media.

The villain is a genetically engineered Atlantic salmon that has a single copy of a growth hormone gene from the chinook salmon. This growth hormone is under the control of an antifreeze gene promoter that the scientists at AquaBounty have taken from the eel-like ocean pout. The promoter keeps growth hormone production switched on all year round instead of only in the warmer months. Thus, the salmon progresses from an egg to your plate in just 18 months instead of the normal 3 years. Read more »

Jobs and Journalism: the future of the digital media

The days of the printed newspaper may be numbered. Those used to getting their ‘news fix’ for free online are soon to be asked to pay by sites such as The Times. Web-based technologies and cheap, compact recording equipment have enabled more people than ever not just to read the news, but to participate in, or even produce it (so-called 'citizen journalists'). How will you read your news in 10 years time? Who will be producing it? Will you be paying for it? With the help of experts interviewed at this year's Science Festival, EUSci examines the issues. Read more »

AR You Ready for This?

What do you get if you take the internet revolution, throw in GPS and digital compass technology, and add some futuristic display technology? In the not-too-distant future, the answer may be 'terminator vision'.

Let's face it, virtual reality was a bit of a let-down. Convincing VR technology has yet to hit the consumer market despite the teasing of science fiction from Star Trek, through to Red Dwarf' and The Matrix. Those headache and neck ache-inducing headsets from the 80s and 90s just don't cut the mustard, and the Trekkies' long wait for their holodeck seems set to continue for some time. Fortunately, consolation is to be found in an emerging set of products centred on a related concept called augmented reality, or AR. Rather than replacing the world around us, AR promises to augment it by overlaying information and making interaction richer. Read more »

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