Friday, January 05, 2007

[[ZEITGEIST]] There have been some interesting stories in the news of late. Here's a roundup…

Scientists find way to slash cost of drugs
Two UK-based academics have devised a way to invent new medicines and get them to market at a fraction of the cost charged by big drug companies, enabling millions in poor countries to be cured of infectious diseases and potentially slashing the NHS drugs bill. Link

Not Wilhelm Reich, nor Kate Bush I'm afraid but a story about a Californian farmers' has installed 24 cannons on his 1,200 acre farm. At the approach of a storm, his 20 ft cannons emit an electronic blast. As the sound waves travel up into the sky, they disrupt the water that is gathering to turn into hail, causing it to fall as mere rain. Link

Free Will Or Not? Not It Seems…
A bevy of experiments in recent years suggest that the conscious mind is like a monkey riding a tiger of subconscious decisions and actions in progress, frantically making up stories about being in control. As a result, physicists, neuroscientists and computer scientists have joined the heirs of Plato and Aristotle in arguing about what free will is, whether we have it, and if not, why we ever thought we did in the first place. Link

Thinking about the future
Brain scans have given US scientists a clue about how we create a mental image of our own future. When patients or volunteers are placed in the functional MRI scanner and asked to think or move in a particular way, specific areas of the brain 'light up' on the scan image, corresponding with increased electrical activity in those regions. The technique has developed to the extent that scientists can almost know what patients are thinking about simply by looking at the brain areas they are using. The latest project looked at one of the qualities thought to be unique to humans - the ability to create a mental picture of events that have not yet happened. The researchers placed 21 volunteers into the MRI machine, then contrasted the scan results when they were asked to imagine vividly future events and recollect past memories. Link

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