AN ENTREPRENEUR, TECHNOLOGIST AND SCIENCE STORYTELLER ATUL JALAN IS A COMPULSIVE ENTREPRENEUR. AS A TECHNOLOGIST, HE IS A KEEN OBSERVER OF THE CHANGES SCIENCE IS FORGING IN US. AS A SCIENCE STORYTELLER, HE BRINGS US THESE OBSERVATIONS THROUGH HIS TALKS AND THROUGH HIS WRITING. KNOW MORE

"THE END OF RANDOMNESS IN HUMAN
EVOLUTION TRULY MARKS THE
BEGINNING OF MAN'S NEXT AVATAR."

EVENTS

INKtalks on Role of Technology during this crisis
WITFluence by Wequity
Elevate by Target Corporation
British Deputy High Commission
Global Entrepreneurship Summit, IIT
National Retail Federation
Techfest, IIT Bombay
INK 2019 Within & Beyond
IMA India CEO Forum

It’s the step by step approach in finding solutions to problems that is fascinating about science. Restoring vision in the blind is a tough challenge, but no doubt worthwhile. ⠀

The Argus II stimulates nerve cells by sending signals from a head-mounted camera to an array of 60 electrodes. But implants placed in the retina of an eye, will fail if the optic nerve is damaged. The next frontier then is the visual cortex. ⠀

The visual cortex is a bit like a cinema screen in our heads. Each area on its surface maps to the visual field, so activating an A-shaped pattern of electrodes in contact with the visual cortex will, in principle, make people “see” an A-shaped pattern of dots. ⠀

Researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience inserted 16 arrays (1024) of needle-like silicon electrodes, each 1.5mm long, across the visual cortex of two rhesus macaques. These monkeys, prior-trained to recognise 16 letter shapes, responded likewise to shapes created by the electrodes. ⠀

Will ‘high-fidelity artificial vision’ be possible in humans? A device with 1024 electrodes is far away from the equivalent of a million pixels resolution of human vision. But science plugs away, and solutions arrive, albeit slowly sometimes. ⠀

#science #technology #wherewillmantakeus #blind #optics #neuroscience #vision #research
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Video chatting and video conferencing are two of the greatest beneficiaries of the WFH ethos that has evolved since the pandemic. One outcome of this is that people need to be camera-ready most of time. ⠀

App makers are applying algorithms to make real-time virtual facelifts a standard feature. “This marks the beginning of a booming video alteration economy. By 2024, video chat applications will offer a variety of AI-generated makeup, virtual facelifts, facial reconstruction, and other digital appearance altering tools.” ⠀

All photographs are digitally touched-up by camera phones, if not Photoshopped already. Apple’s Animoji and #Snapchat filters already exist. Zoom has added ‘Touch Up My Appearance’.⠀

Now the make-up companies are in on this BeautyGate. FaceTime uses Sephora’s Virtual Artist. L’Oreal bought Modiface to launch Signature Face filters to display eye makeup, lipsticks and hair products.⠀

Here’s the downside: our digital appearances will be unnatural, and that will be natural or normal! Chris Dancy puts it beautifully: “We are going to become so accustomed to AI generated “makeup”, “smart” email responses, and software-defined personalities that within five years, being “authentic” will be seen as a highly valued job skill or a circus oddity.” ⠀

#AI #virtual #video #filters #facetime #makeup
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Culture, while it is the intrinsic bedrock of who we really are, and how we see the world, is also a hotbed of biases and preconceptions. While there is every reason to have valid scientific concerns about almost everything, with regard to aversion of GM food our biases can be overarching. ⠀

Organic food is may be our answer but a NewScientist article finds some myth-busting examples. Star Ruby grapefruits, touted as organic, are grown by exposing the plant to atomic radiation. Radiation mutagenesis is an early 20th century breeding technique used in developing many novel crops. ⠀

‘Everything from a cultivar of mint used to make menthol to a barley variety used to make beer were created through this technique and it is still in active use today.’ Additionally, the potential mutations are random and unpredictable.⠀

In nature genetic mutations happen all the time. All cultivars of the sweet potato contain bacterial genes from millennia ago. This natural process is called horizontal gene transfer. Some argue that the ‘millennia’ takes care of the side-effects, but that isn’t so: Comfrey is an example. ⠀

While there are ideological aversions to anything modified, cultural taboos too predispose our views on GM food.⠀

#organic #GMfoods #genetics #science #crops #culture #mutations
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Most of us have an opinion on Genetically Modified (GM) or Genetically Engineered foods. Modified plants or cultivars are a big no-no in certain cultures even when there is scientific evidence to the contrary.⠀

In a survey conducted by Pew Research, about half of the responding countries said that GM foods were unsafe to eat. ⠀

A median of 48% (in the 20 surveyed countries) said that GM foods are unsafe to eat, while only 13% said GM foods are safe. People with limited familiarity were also allowed to respond: a median of 37% said that they did not know enough to respond in either direction.⠀

Countries like Russia (70%), Italy (62%), India (58%) and South Korea (57%) were high on the list. Even in Spain, where 39% said they did not know enough to comment, the bias was toward the negative opinion (47%). Australia was the only place where there was an equal distribution of opinion.⠀

Many countries have banned GM foods, including France and Germany, even though there are scientific reports from USA and Japan to show that these foods were safe.⠀

Are the biases essentially cultural rather than scientific? See my next post in GM Foods Part 2. ⠀
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#GM #foods #safefoods #science #GMfoods #plants #genetics
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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy⠀

The Series⠀
It has been exactly 42 years since The Hitchhiker’s Guide began as a BBC radio comedy. This number is significant since 42 is the answer to everything: life, universe, and all of it as promulgated by the supercomputer, Deep Thought, in the series. ⠀

Douglas Adams wrote 5 volumes in this series which has sold more than 15 million copies. What are the reasons for its unfading popularity? It is a book that has fuelled many a child’s imagination about the universe, made sci-fi both cool and accessible, gave science and technology a futuristic but questioning look, highlighted the surreality of our lives, and spoke of the human condition with humour and candidness.⠀

The Story⠀
Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect survive the destruction of Earth and are thrown into a space and time odyssey which becomes a quest for the meaning of life. Fantastic characters are introduced to resolve complex scientific paradigms and the advances of future technology. ⠀

The twin headed Zaphod Beeblebrox, Trillan, the Vogons, who are bureaucratic and mean-minded (also terrible poets), Marvin, a chronically depressed robot, and Slartibartfast, a planetary architect, are all brilliant expository characters. Prescient technological advancements are couched in humorous names like telepathic Babel Fish, Infinite Improbability Drive, Deep Thought, and a spaceship called Heart of Gold. And, of course, hyper-intelligent Mice are studying humans!⠀

The Author⠀
Douglas Adams has a masterly command over the English language, with his arsenals of wit and satire firing on all cylinders. He displays an understanding of scientific applications and conflates them with philosophical takes on every aspect of the human condition. The series has spawned: a television series, numerous stage plays, comics, a video game, and a feature film.⠀

Final Note⠀
Many people remember it as the most impactful book(s) of their lives; even people not pursuing science. For me it sowed the seeds a fascination with science and technology which germinated into a lifetime love for the sciences and its impact on our lives.⠀

#book #fiction #bookreview #scifi universe #books
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3D printing is finding increasing applications in the human body. Recently it has been used to create a biomimetic tongue surface which replicates the topology, elasticity and wettability quotient of the human tongue.⠀

According to Dr. Andablo-Reyes at the University of Leeds: “Recreating the surface of an average human tongue comes with unique architectural challenges. Hundreds of small bud-like structures called papilla give the tongue its characteristic rough texture that in combination to the soft nature of the tissue create a complicated landscape from a mechanical perspective.” ⠀

The 3D printing used a Poisson point process-based papillae distribution to micromold soft silicone surfaces with modifications for wettability. ⠀
These features are essential to determine how food and saliva interact with the tongue to facilitate swallowing, speech, texture and mouthfeel. Now, testing of oral processing properties of food, pharmaceutics and dry mouth therapies can be done before human trials come into play.⠀

The collaborative aspect of this study is phenomenal. Experts were from fields of food-colloid science, soft matter physics, dentistry, mechanical engineering and computer science. #3D #speech #texture #technology #printing #tongue #science
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Imagine your departed parent coming back and letting you know how proud they are of you. It would be hard to stay stoic wouldn’t it? ⠀

Kanye West did exactly that by gifting his wife, Kim Kardashian a hologram of her departed father, Robert Kardashian. ⠀

The hologram of Robert Kardashian was designed by production company Kaleida, which uses a special silver-studded gauze called Holonet to reflect light and create the spectral deepfake illusions. Completing the realistic effect is a mix of deepfake programming and motion tracking effects helped the hologram of Robert move around. ⠀

While Kim apparently enjoyed the thoughtfulness of the gift, some may question the effort going into creating a realistic hologram only to break the spell. Apparently holo Robert was programmed to say that Kim married “the most, most, most, most, most genius man in the whole world, Kanye West.” ⠀

#hologram #deepfake #OJsimpson #kimkardashian #kanyewest #kardashian
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