Brazilian-born Miguel Nicolelis is a professor of neurobiology at Duke University and a pioneer in the field of brain-machine-interfaces, in which brain waves from a human or animal control a robot-limb prosthethis. For more on Nicolelis and his work, watch "The Next List" this Sunday at 2:30 pm ET on CNN.
By Miguel Nicolelis
For the past 30 years, I have dedicated my career as a neurobiologist to unveil the physiological principles that underlie how our brain circuits, formed by billions of interconnected cells, known as neurons, create the entirety of our human nature and history out of sheer electrical brainstorms.
To pursue this quest, my colleagues and I at the Duke University Center for Neuroengineering have developed a variety of new methods and technologies to probe the brain in search of any hint, any glimpse that could place us on the right trail to answer the greatest mysteries of all times: how the entire wealth of the human mind emerges from a mesh of organic tissue.
In 1999, John Chapin, my former postdoctoral advisor, and I published a scientific paper that introduced to the neuroscience community what by then seemed to be just another promising new experimental tool in brain research. Without much ceremony, we named this new experimental paradigm brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) and, in a flurry of papers that followed the original report, we described the technical details of our unorthodox combination of neurophysiological methods, real-time computing and robotics to create a direct and bidirectional interface between living animal brains and a variety of mechanical and electronic machines.
In the late 1990s, our initial effort in building such devices was entirely motivated by the desire to establish a powerful experimental tool to carry on work related to the investigation of the neurophysiological principles that allow behavior, the true business of the brain, to emerge flawlessly and effortlessly, time and time again, from the widespread dynamic interactions of large populations of neurons that comprise any brain circuit.
By the time our original papers were published in scientific journals, very few people, outside a small number of experts working in the emergent field of BMIs, could envision the enormous clinical potential that this newly acquired ability to interface brains and machines could unleash and how it could influence the future of rehabilitation medicine.
What a difference 15 years make! After a mere decade and a half of intense research and stunning experimental demonstrations, brain-machine interfaces have become the core of a large variety of potential future new therapies for neurological disorders, such as untreatable epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease and devastating levels of body paralysis. Moreover, in the not so remote future, BMIs of a different variety may allow us to perform a lot of our daily routine tasks, such as interacting with our smartphones, just by thinking!
Welcome to the era of brain-actuating technology; the age in which the brain’s voluntary desire to move will be liberated from the physical limits of the human body that host it.
In the CNN show you are about to watch, you will be introduced to the Walk Again Project (WAP), the first worldwide, non-profit international brain research consortium aimed at building a new generation of robotic limb prostheses, which can be directly controlled by the subject’s own brain activity through a brain-machine interface. In the future, we hope that neuroprostheses such as the ones the WAP intends to build could be used to restore full-body mobility in tens of millions of severely paralyzed patients worldwide.
To showcase to the entire world that this moment could be fast approaching, the WAP has proposed to have the first public demonstration of such a potentially revolutionary medical rehabilitation technology during the opening football match of the FIFA 2014 Soccer World Cup on June 12, 2014, in São Paulo, Brazil.
According to this proposal, at 5:00 pm that afternoon, a Brazilian young adult, who is paralyzed below the waist down will emerge in the pitch wearing a robotic vest, known as an exoskeleton, whose movements are controlled by some sort of brain-derived signals. Then, using all his voluntary will, this true herald of a new era shall walk autonomously all the way to center field, and once there, kick a ball to deliver the official start of the World Cup.
In essence, what we propose is that, in the land that invented the “beautiful game," the opening kickoff of the greatest sports event in the world becomes a scientific “Gol” to all of humanity.
Hardly a day goes by that we don’t hear about the perils of global warming and the toll that fossil fuels take on the environment. Most of us, though, are too consumed with managing the daily blitz of life to do much about it.
Apart from the rising cost of gasoline, it’s easy to forget.
But Saul Griffith is making it his mission to focus on the nuts and bolts of changing the energy equation. His goal is to transform the way America generates and uses power and make alternative energy the fuel of the future once and for all.
Griffith is an inventor, engineer, scientist and recipient of a coveted MacArthur “genius” award. He also is co-founder of Otherlab, a hothouse of ideas and inventions where he and his team are developing technologies that could dramatically cut the cost of solar power, make it possible for cars to run on natural gas and change everything you think you know about robots.
Wouldn’t it be cool if…? That’s the philosophy that guides all the work that Griffith and his colleagues do at Otherlab.
“We try to skip a few generations in the things we’re working on,” says Griffith.
For example: Wouldn’t it be cool if robots were made of cloth? One of Griffith’s most intriguing ideas is making ‘soft’ machines.
“We proposed to DARPA, here is a way that we could really transform the cost of robots. We’ll eliminate all the servo motors. We will eliminate the pins and bearing and joints. And we will sew you a robot out of fabric and use pressurized fluids to make it work," he says. "And it will reduce the cost of robots 100 fold. And it will make them 10 or 100 times more powerful."
Editor’s note: Diana Eng is a fashion designer and self-described geek who blends fashion and technology in surprising ways. Watch Diana’s full profile this Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on CNN’s “The Next List.”
By Diana Eng, Special to CNN
New York Fashion Week has just wrapped up. It's an event that reminds me twice a year of the moment I knew I was meant to be a fashion designer (as opposed to a computer programmer or electrical engineer).
The first time I attended Mercedes Benz Fashion Week was for the Project Runway, season two show at Bryant Park. I sat in the front row and felt like royalty as a bunch of reporters came up to ask me questions; “Do you know how lucky you are to be sitting in the front row?” “Is this the best day of your life?” “Who do you think will win?” “Tell me a secret about the show without violating your contract.”
I was still trying to get over the fact that I was actually at a fashion week show. Debra Messing walked by and said “Hi Diana” and I was like, “OMG, Debra Messing, you know my name!”
And then two men came out and removed the plastic covering the runway, the lights started to dim and there was finally a hush. It was like unwrapping a present. The show was about to start and I was filled with excitement, pride and anticipation. At that moment there were so many possibilities, anything could come down the runway. I thought, “I am so excited to be a fashion designer!”
Not everyone can relate the rush of fashion week, but we all have a personal relationship with the things we wear. They are our second skin. When someone sees us for the first time, our style conveys the first impressions about our personality.
Clothing can also say a lot about the world around us. In the 19th century, women would have conveyed their personal style with hoop skirts and bustles made possible by new advances in steel making. We’ve made many technological advancements since the Bessemer process. In the 21st century, what will your fashion say about you?
I like my fashion designs to make people stop and think twice. And I think that, like the hoop skirts of the 19th century, today’s technology can lead to new looks.
Using a laser cutter I am able to distress t-shirts in lace patterns, adding a delicate touch to an otherwise rugged style. I create scarves with snowflakes that appear and grow in cold weather. I play with electronics - LEDs, electroluminescent wire, microcontrollers - to make clothing that reacts to sound and motion. I work with technicians to program fully fashioned (3D) knitting machines to automatically knit lace created by the Fibonacci number sequence.
I’m excited to see what possibilities the next generation of designers will come up with. I’ve had the privilege of teaching the Click@MoMA: Wearable Technology class for high school students through Eyebeam. My class toured the Museum of Modern Art to view paintings by Picasso and Mondrian, and we discussed how shapes could augment the human body. Then the students built inflatable clothing to augment their bodies. We viewed Monet’s Water Lilies to see how Impressionist artists used color and texture to express different seasons and moods. The students created videos to project images on to dresses so that the dresses could portray different moods. Today’s teens have never lived without the Internet or cell phones. As technology becomes a bigger part of our world, tomorrow’s designers will need a greater understanding of science to create relevant designs.
It doesn’t matter how many fashion shows I attend, I still feel the same thrill when they peel back the plastic to start the show. Fashion has infinite possibilities and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
By Brandon Griggs, CNN
We're all doodlers by nature. Give most people a pen, paper and some down time, and they'll fill the margins with the fruits of their imagination.
But imagine if you could wave a pen in the air and create a three-dimensional rendering: A toy, a sculpture, a crude architectural model.
Soon you will. A Boston-based startup, WobbleWorks, has created what they are calling the world's first 3-D printing pen. It's called the 3Doodler, and it's been a sensation on Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site, since it debuted there Tuesday morning. The makers of the 3Doodler set a modest fundraising goal of $30,000; within 48 hours, backers had pledged more than $1.1 million.
"We knew it was a great product. But we didn't expect the response to be this fast," said Daniel Cowen, a spokesman for the gadget, which is still a prototype. "The velocity of the response caught us by surprise. It's phenomenal." FULL POST
Editor’s note: Diana Eng is a fashion designer and technologist who gets her inspiration from math, science and nature. Watch a full profile of Diana Eng this Sunday at 2:30p ET (all-new time!) only on CNN.
Diana Eng’s mission is to bring innovation to the fashion world, and she’s doing it with some very unlikely tools.
Best known for her role on the second season of "Project Runway," Eng creates fashion and accessories that combine cutting-edge technology with design concepts from nature and science.
“I like to look at technology, math and science and how to integrate it into fashion designs,”says the New York-based designer. Eng has knitted scarves using the formula from the Fibonacci code as well as thermochromic scarves which change color with the temperature. She also uses laser cutters to design lace patterns and distressed T-shirts.
The composition of flower cells has inspired her designs and help them keep structural integrity.
“I like to make fashion and accessories that tell a story,” says Eng. “The story usually comes to me while I’m designing. And it can take me two or three years to design something, because I’m carefully gathering little bits and pieces of the story together, to create my design.”
Eng is also one of the founding members of a Brooklyn-based hack space called NYC Resistor. In an unassuming warehouse, she and 30 other members with a variety of backgrounds meet to learn, make things and share ideas.
“They have a whole bunch of electronics there so I feel like whatever I’m doing, whatever technical development (I want) inside of things, I’ll go to NYC Resistor,” she says.
Eng says she wants people to enjoy not only her fashions but the thinking behind the product.
“I’m really interested in making people think differently about things,” she says. “I feel like it’s really teaching people to look at materials that already exist and think about how it can change how we live our lives and how we can create.”
Editors Note: Ed Lu is a former NASA astronaut and current CEO of the B612 Foundation. His goal is to build a space telescope that will detect possibly cataclysmic asteroids headed for Earth. Watch more about Ed Lu’s incredible mission this Sunday 2:30 P.M. E.T. (all-new time!) on “The Next List.”
He calls it the biggest environmental project imaginable. Ed Lu believes one of the biggest threats to the planet isn’t even on the Earth, it’s in space. Asteroids.
Ed Lu says asteroids hit earth all the time. “Really small ones are just the shooting stars you see when you look up in the sky,” says Lu. “Larger ones, like the one that hit Tunguska in Siberia, those hit about every couple hundred years.” In 1908 an asteroid about 130 feet wide hit Tunguska Siberia with a force that was 1000 times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. It totally destroyed an area the size of the San Francisco bay area. They happen more frequently than we realize – and there are no guarantees that the next one won’t hit a city. “There is about a 50 percent chance in your lifetime that another explosion of that size is going to happen somewhere on earth,” says Lu.
And here’s the really scary part: right now we’re only able to detect about one percent of the asteroids that are actually orbiting near Earth. The reality, says Lu, is that there are 100 times more asteroids than that.
“That’s about a million near Earth asteroids that are larger than the one that hit in Tunguska in 1908,” he said.
But Lu has a solution.
He is building one of the most powerful space telescopes in the world, called The Sentinel. It will launch in 2018 and orbit the sun, which means it will be between 30 million and 170 million miles from Earth. To put it in perspective, that’s about 500,000 times further from Earth than the Hubble space telescope.
Editor's Note: The Next List will air a full 30min profile of synthetic biologist Jay Keasling this Sunday, Feb. 10th, at 2:30PM ET (all-new time!) only on CNN.
Quotable Jay Keasling: “The carpets, the paint on the walls, the ceiling tiles, we have the potential to produce all of these products from sugar.”
Who is he: Jay Keasling, a pioneer in the burgeoning field of synthetic biology, is engineering microbes – single cell organisms like yeast and E. coli – to produce biofuels, medicines, even cosmetic compounds from simple ingredients like sugar cane and grass.
In addition to teaching bioengineering at UC Berkeley, Jay is CEO of the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Joint BioEnergy Institute (JBEI) in Emeryville, California.
Why you might know him: Keasling’s biggest breakthrough came in 2003 when he and his students reprogrammed yeast to produce a synthetic version of an expensive anti-malarial drug known as artemisinin. Armed with a $42 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, they’ve since perfected this inexpensive and effective replacement drug, providing a royalty-free license for mass production to pharmaceutical giant Sanofi-Aventi. Sanofi will bring it to market in 2013, producing 100 million treatments annually. Malaria kills roughly 1 million people a year, many of them children.
Why he matters: Today Keasling is focusing his efforts on creating a new generation of biofuels. Overseeing a team of 200 researchers at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, his goal is to “engineer microbes to produce fuels that behave exactly the same as petroleum-based fuels.” Ultimately, he believes all petroleum-based products – everything from hard plastics and paints to soda bottles – can be produced from these sugar-fed microbes.
Keasling’s philosophy: “Energy is our biggest industry on the planet. But unless we stop putting carbon into the atmosphere, sea levels are going to continue to rise and it's going to create huge problems."
Something you might not know about him: Keasling's a small town boy made good. He grew up on a fifth generation pig farm in Harvard, Nebraska (pop. 1000) where hard work and family were his focus. He jokes he spent the first 18 years of his life shoveling manure. Today, he may spend his day in a lab coat, but as a single father of two adopted boys, ages nine and 15, family continues to keep him grounded.
Why biofuels matter: Keasling doesn’t think we’ll ever see a day when biofuels cost less than petroleum-based fuels, but they will be cleaner. “We won’t be extracting oil from a foreign country, then hauling it to the U.S., and putting that excess carbon into the atmosphere,” he said. Instead, by producing high performance fuels from sugars, he says we can limit the carbons released into the atmosphere and, as a result, help slow global warming.
Do you ever feel like the place you live is just a dot on a map? Well, if you live in the U.S. or Canada, Brandon Martin-Anderson just made you a dot on a map.
The MIT graduate student has built an interactive online map that displays one dot for every resident of the United States and Canada, as counted by the most recent censuses. That's 341,817,095 dots. Hover over your town or city, and black smudges on the map gradually dissolve into dot clusters and then individual dots as you zoom in.
"The reason why it (the map) keeps getting shared around is that it intersects with everyone's personal narrative," says Martin-Anderson, a researcher at the MIT Media Lab. "People want to be a piece of something larger." FULL POST
By The Next List staff, CNN
(CNN) - Skip Rizzo is a wizard of the virtual world, a clinical psychologist and anything but your average lab geek. He’s also a key combatant in the U.S. military’s battle against post traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Rizzo's lab is a part of The University of Southern California's Institute for Creative Technologies.
Watch CNN at 2 p.m. ET on January 27 to see a half-hour look inside Rizzo's world. Here's a primer on why he's a member of CNN's The Next List:
Why you might know him: Rizzo grabbed headlines back in 2006 with "Virtual Iraq," a virtual reality PTSD therapy for combat veterans. The treatment combines latest in gaming technology with a clinical approach to treating PTSD called prolonged exposure therapy. "Virtual Iraq" is used in more than 50 Veterans Affairs hospitals in the United States.
Why he matters: Despite advances in PTSD treatment, Rizzo believes America can do more for its troops. His current effort is called STRIVE - and it's designed to prevent PTSD by intervening before a war deployment. Funded in part by grants from both the Army and Navy research communities, the 30-chapter virtual reality program will use a fully immersive, “'Band of Brothers'-like” simulation to better prepare service members for the pressures of combat before their boots hit the ground. Research trials will begin at California’s Camp Pendleton this spring.
His philosophy: Rizzo says his calling is to "take care of the folks who put themselves in harm’s way to protect our freedoms."
Oh, he's also into skull collecting: Rizzo is Harley-riding rugby player with a penchant for collecting skulls.
Why combat-related PTSD matters: One in 5 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with PTSD, according to George Washington University. That’s nearly 300,000 veterans as of October 2012. And the social and economic costs of PTSD are immense. First-year treatment alone costs the government $8,300 per person, or more than $2 billion so far. Suicides among active-duty military personnel averaged one per day in 2012. Veterans now account for 20% of suicides in the U.S., with the youngest (age 24 and younger) taking their lives at four times the rate of older veterans.