Category Archives: Technology

This is your brain online: How technology can affect the brain like drugs


The parameters of digital addiction are not defined, but digital addictions are similar to behavioral addictions like compulsive gambling.

Kuss says there’s evidence that Internet addiction can alter brain chemistry.

When the brain experiences something pleasant — for example, winning a video game — the good feelings come from a rush of dopamine, she said. When someone becomes addicted to the activity, neural receptors in the brain become flooded with dopamine and essentially turn off, leading the addict to seek out those feelings aggressively.

When the activity is cut off, it takes time for the receptors to wake up, resulting in depression, mood swings or sleep deprivation. Doan says science needs to classify different kinds of media based on what he calls “digital potency.”

“You don’t see people getting addicted to PowerPoint,” Doan said. “Our challenge is to figure out how potent something like Facebook is compared to something like gaming.”

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Filed under Health, Mental Health Issues, Relationships, Technology

Obama’s plan to relinquish our authority over the Internet

The End of a Free Internet?

When the new Congress shows up on Tuesday, it’s going to have lots to worry about, but there’s one serious problem at risk of being overlooked. And that really can’t be allowed to happen; it’s much too important:

In 2015, the Obama administration plans to hand over control of ICANN — the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — to international governance. ICANN oversees the superstructure of the Internet, and the American Department of Commerce oversees ICANN. The plan for handing our authority to the global community would mean oversight by censors and despots in China, Russia, and Iran.

Mr. Obama’s foreign policy is steeped in naïveté. He’s done irreparable damage in Cuba, where the Castros were on their last legs. He’s done irreparable damage in the Middle East, where defeat was snatched from the jaws of Iraqi victory, and where lifting sanctions saved Iran’s foundering economy. He’s done irreparable damage in East Asia by genuflecting to Beijing’s dictators. He’s done irreparable damage in Europe by scrapping the Czech–Polish missile-defense system and gift-wrapping the Crimea. This fait-accompli phone-and-pen nonsense is incredibly serious.

But this time, Congress has advance warning. And it knows what’s at stake. If it does nothing, it will have done irreparable damage to the freedom of everyone who uses or is affected by the Internet. Which is to say, everyone. It will be Congress’s fault.

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Filed under Politics, Technology

Here’s What the Internet Looks Like in North Korea

When the Internet in North Korea crashed this week for nearly 10 hours, it’s unlikely that many of the reclusive nation’s millions of residents noticed.

Williams estimated that the number of people who regularly use the Internet in North Korea was probably somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000 people, and since Monday’s attack took place in the evening hours local time, the number of people who noticed would be far less.

Doug Madory, the director of Internet analysis for Internet performance management company Dyn Research, told ABC News that the country’s virtual footprint is “inordinately small.”

All told, there are said to be 1,000 IP addresses in the country, Madory said, compared to about 981 million in the United States and about 107 million in South Korea.

Another way to measure a country’s digital footprint is by the number of BGP routes, which Madory described as the way anyone on the Internet would send traffic out of North Korea.

The United States has 150,000 BGP routes, which is the most in the world. South Korea has 17,000 BGP routes, and North Korea has four.

Madory noted that there are countries that have fewer routes than North Korea, though they are mostly small South Pacific island nations where the population is a fraction of that of North Korea’s.

“It is a microscopic-sized Internet, especially for a country of millions of people,” Madory said.

To put it in perspective, North Korea has fewer IP addresses than a New York City block…

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Filed under Culture, Government, North Korea, Technology

Smartphone use changes our brains: study


Learning to text on a smartphone is nowhere near as difficult as learning to play the violin, but the two may have a few similarities.

Brain researchers have found that smartphone use shapes the parts of our brains that govern our finger movement in much the same way as learning to play an instrument, such as the violin.

Every region of the body — from our toes to our fingers — has a particular processing area in the part of our brains called the somatosensory cortex. These areas are “plastic,” meaning they can change and grow throughout our lifetimes.

“Smartphones offer us an opportunity to understand how normal life shapes the brains of ordinary people,” Ghosh explained in a statement.

His team and a team from the University of Fribourg used EEGs (electroencephalography) to measure the brain activity in 37 people, 26 of whom were touchscreen smartphone users; the rest used old-style cellphones.

They found that the cortical activity in smartphone users was quite different from those using traditional cellphones.

The more the smartphone users had used their phones in the previous 10 days, the greater the signal observed in the somatosensory cortex. And this link was strongest in the brain areas that controlled the thumbs.

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Filed under Apple, Health, Medical Discoveries, Technology

World First: Man Controls Two Prosthetic Arms With His Mind

Doctors wired them right into his nerves

Baugh isn’t the first person to control robotic limbs with his mind. Some researchers are already working on giving amputee patients back their sense of touch. But the technique is new enough that dual-control has never been tried before.

In order to prepare his body for the devices, Baugh underwent a surgery called targeted muscle reinnervation. The procedure redirected nerves that once controlled his limbs to interact with the prosthetics.

Next, he trained on a computer, working with virtual models as pattern recognition software learned to apply signals from his brain to his intended movements. Then, Johns Hopkins researchers fitted him with a personalized socket to hold the prostheses to his body and translate his mental controls.

When they attached the robotic limbs, he performed a variety of two-handed tasks—becoming the first person to ever manipulate two independent arms with his mind at the same time.

In the future, according to John Hopkins, he’ll be able to take them home and use them in his day-to-day life.

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Filed under Medical Discoveries, Technology

Simple Circuit Could Double Cell-Phone Data Speeds


A relatively simple circuit invented by researchers at the University of Texas could let smartphones and other wireless devices send and receive data twice as fast as they do now.

The circuit makes it possible for a radio to send and receive signals on the same channel simultaneously – something known as “full-duplex” communications. That should translate to a doubling of the rate at which information can be moved around wirelessly.

Today’s radios must send and receive at different times to avoid drowning out incoming signals with their own transmissions. As a smartphone accesses the Internet via a cell tower, for example, its radio flips back and forth between sending and receiving, similar way to the way two people having a conversation take turns to speak and listen.

The new circuit, known as a circulator, can isolate signals coming into a device from those it is sending out, acting as a kind of selective filter in between a device’s antenna and its radio circuitry. Circulators are already a crucial part of radar systems, but until now they have always been built using strong magnets made from rare earth metals, making them bulky and unsuited to the circuit boards inside devices such as laptops and smartphones.

The new circuit design avoids magnets, and uses only conventional circuit components. “It’s very cheap, compact, and light,” says Andrea Alù, the associate professor who led the work. “It’s ideal for a cell phone.”

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Filed under Technology

The light dawns…

Colorado Residents Wake Up, Vote To Bypass Protectionist State Broadband Laws

Colorado’s 2005 state law hindering community broadband bills was pushed for by local incumbents CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) and Comcast, which, like AT&T, have a long and quite sleazy history of passing awful laws, trying to sue such operations out of existence, or engaging in misleading disinformation campaigns (like telling locals their taxpayer money will go toward subsidizing porn). In Colorado’s case, the 2005 law fortunately included provisions allowing locals to build networks if they call for an election. Last week, Boulder and six other communities voted to move forward with the idea of building their own networks.

Comcast is busy in Washington trying to maintain a clean facade in order to get regulatory approval of its $45 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, so it didn’t challenge the efforts, something that helps explain the campaign’s success:

“How were they able to secure such a big victory? There might be some factors at work that are bigger than even Colorado. Comcast, the state’s largest cable provider, did not fight the referendum, perhaps because it is focused on getting its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable approved in Washington. (Comcast declined to comment for this report.)”

Like so many technology issues (net neutrality springs to mind), this issue of community broadband has somehow been caught in the partisan politics team cheerleading wormhole, even though letting a giant corporation write your state laws and erode local authority simply to protect its mono/duopoly revenues isn’t something either Conservatives or Progressives would support in a sane world. Refreshingly, a lot of the community revolt against these laws currently occurring in places like Colorado, North Carolina and Tennessee is being championed by Republicans and Democrats alike, who collectively (though belatedly) seem to have realized that better, cheaper broadband ultimately benefits everybody.

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Filed under Abuse of Power, Technology

Doctors, hospitals rethinking electronic medical records mandated by 2009 law


A revolt is brewing among doctors and hospital administrators over electronic medical records systems mandated by one of President Obama’s early health care reforms.

The American Medical Association called for a “design overhaul” of the entire electronic health records system in September because, said AMA president-elect Steven Stack, electronic records “fail to support efficient and effective clinical work.”

That has “resulted in physicians feeling increasingly demoralized by technology that interferes with their ability to provide first-rate medical care to their patients,” Stack said.

Congress approved the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act in 2009, which mandated the health care industry to undertake a massive digitization of patient medical records.

More than 75 percent of all physicians now use some type of electronic records system, up from 18 percent in 2001, according to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

In a report sent to Congress Thursday, the office also said hospital adoption of at least a basic electronic records system has increased from 12 percent in 2009 to 59 percent this year.

The concept of digitizing patient records where they can be accessed in real-time by multiple health care providers is popular, but a lengthening list of problems with its implementation is prompting increasingly vocal complaints.

The complaints focus on poorer quality care for patients and fewer medical reports while immense new financial burdens are imposed on medical providers. In addition, the new digitized system leaves millions of people vulnerable to hacker attacks.

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Filed under "Intelligence", "Transparency", Government, Health, Insurance, ObamaCare, Technology

Pulling an IRS…

EPA can’t find top official’s text messages

Interesting. They should be able to get a court order and serve the phone company–who keeps a record of all text messages. Cops do it all the time.

The EPA is poised to “do an IRS” — similar to what the tax agency had to do with dismissed top official Lois G. Lerner — and officially notify the National Archives that it may have lost key electronic records, according to a think tank that’s suing to get text messages under an open-records request.

Justice Department lawyers told a federal court on Tuesday that the alert will be coming soon, in a case that’s shaping up as a significant battle over whether government agencies are required to keep cellphone text messages as “official” records.

In this case, researcher Chris Horner and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are trying to get a peek at Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy’s text messages, believing that she switched from emails to texting in order to talk about the agency’s controversial plans to crack down on coal power plants.

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Filed under "Intelligence", "Transparency", Cronyism, Democrats, Elitism, Entitlement, Environmental Laws, Government, Hypocrisy, Impeachment, Liberals, Politics, Stupidity, Technology, Useful Idiots

Could Taking A Selfie In A Museum Violate Copyright Law?

In this day and age? Probably…

With the news that the National Gallery in the UK has rescinded its long-standing “no photographs” rule, it appears that another opportunity for incidental and accidental infringement has been unleashed upon people in the UK. The National Gallery apparently realized that with everyone carrying a smartphone these days (and the fact that it offers free WiFi that it encourages patrons to use), it became kind of ridiculous to try to block photographs while encouraging people to use their phones to research the artwork they were looking at.

However, the original notice noted that “temporary” exhibits will still have restrictions on photography “for reasons of copyright.” But, as IPKat notes above, it’s not clear why that should only apply to the temporary exhibits, since many of the permanent exhibit works are still under copyright as well (though the museum itself might also hold the copyright on many of those works). Either way, IPKat wonders if merely including a piece of copyright-covered artwork in the background of a photo — such as a selfie — might lead to claims of infringement. While some countries have freedom of panorama laws** that say it’s okay to represent artistic works on public display, that apparently does not apply to paintings (though it does apply to sculptures).

In the end, it appears that while it may be unlikely to get sued over taking a selfie in the National Gallery, if you’re the extra cautious type, you might want to avoid it for fear of yet another ridiculous copyright claim. As IPKat notes, the caselaw is at least ambiguous enough that if someone wanted to go after you for your selfie with fine art, you might be in trouble. That this end result is ridiculous and kind of stupid isn’t really discussed in the piece, but seems rather obvious. Yes, it may be unlikely that a lawsuit will come out of it, but we’ve seen sillier lawsuits in the past, and I doubt it would surprise many if this new policy also results in a lawsuit down the road. Because that’s just the way copyright works.

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Filed under "Intelligence", "Transparency", Government, Security, Technology