Posts Tagged ‘change’

A Vampire Flying Frog by any other name…

// January 11th, 2011 // 2 Comments » // Recent Research

Rhacophorus vampyrus

Vampire Flying Frog. Image by Australian Museum

Actually, it’s not QUITE as cool as it sounds.

This new frog species, the Vampire Flying Frog, was discovered in Vietnam by scientists from the Australian Museum. Rhacophorus vampyrus was a latecomer to the International Year of Biodiversity, which yielded a wealth of newly discovered creatures.

But the name. The name. To be honest, it reminds me of the ten shelves in every bookstore devoted to vampire teen fiction. I’m all for making science sexy, but seriously. In the paper it doesn’t even say “Vampire flying frog” as in the media release and all the news articles. It actually says “Vampire tree frog” which sounds less vampiric and more like it drinks tree sap or something.

The name makes a promise that the frog doesn’t deliver on. Now if the frog looked like THIS then I would applaud the name.

Giant Vampire Frog

The Flying part is true enough. There are several species of tree frog that are called “flying frogs” because they can glide. It’s a good quality to have when you live up in trees. With larger hands and feet and extra webbing they can parachute through the air.

Vampire Flying Tadpole

Tadpole with fangs. Image by Australian Museum

The Vampire part is… well… it’s neat. The tadpoles have fangs.

Normally tadpoles have beak-like mouth pieces, but this one has two black, hard fang-shaped appendages made of keratin (the same stuff as your hair.)

According to the scientists, it looks too big to be involved in feeding but might help the tadpole hold onto tree bark. The frog creates foam nests, laying its eggs in water-filled tree-holes.

More details on the tadpoles will be published in another report. The original report can be downloaded in pdf by clicking through the citation: Rowley, J. et al. (2010). A new tree frog of the genus Rhacophorus (Anura: Rhacophoridae) from southern Vietnam Zootaxa

Another cool thing about the frog is it changes colour. In daylight it’s a pale tan, but at night it’s stunning brick red. I don’t know if that’s a normal thing for tree frogs. Any herpetologists in the house?

Thought controlled computers? Recent research says yes.

// October 29th, 2010 // 6 Comments » // Recent Research

computer thinking

Image by Amarand Agasi

Imagine being able to control a computer with your mind!

No longer would we be tied down to keyboards, mice and touchscreens!

We need NEVER put down our coffee to work!

It’s not fantasy, that just happened.

Twelve subjects sat in front of a computer and looked at two superimposed images on a screen, focusing their mind on one of the pictures. The computer responded by making the image stronger while fading the other image away until only one was visible. They picked the image they wanted to look at, and made it so!

All the subjects had epilepsy, and had fine wires inside their brains to monitor seizures. These wires were attached to neurons and connected to the computer. Now not everyone has wires in their brain… YET. But to be honest I would consider it.

The images were picked during a screening process earlier that morning, which selected pairs that activated very different neurons. Marilyn Monroe and Michael Jackson were two famous faces used as pictures in the experiment. The Marilyn Monroe image might make some neurons fire faster, while the Michael Jackson image would make others fire. The pairs were used several times during the tests, half the time one picture was the target (ie. Marilyn) and the rest of the time, the other (Jackson.)

To quote the letter, published in Nature “The subject was instructed to enhance the target image from the hybrid image on the screen by ‘continuously thinking of the concept represented by that image.'” The concept? Like Marilyn Monroe and sex? Maybe. All the images were ones that would be familiar to the subjects, though I would like to know if you can choose between two completely new pictures.

Success rate (making the target picture take up the whole screen) was about 70%. Not bad… not great, but not bad.

This new research could shed light on how information is used in the brain, and how interactions between single brain cells let us make decisions. I personally hope this is the one of many steps towards real mind-control in the computer realm. Come on science, I’m sick of typing! Give me my mind mouse!

Here is the research paper. FYI, it was a bitch to read! Very confusing.

ResearchBlogging.orgCerf, M., Thiruvengadam, N., Mormann, F., Kraskov, A., Quiroga, R., Koch, C., & Fried, I. (2010). On-line, voluntary control of human temporal lobe neurons Nature, 467 (7319), 1104-1108 DOI: 10.1038/nature09510






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