Australian astronomers discover oldest known star in universe

13.6bn-year-old heavenly body is a time capsule that allows scientists to study the chemistry of the first stars.

  • The star discovered with the SkyMapper telescope at the Siding Spring observatory
The star discovered with the SkyMapper telescope at the Siding Spring observatory near Coonabarabran. Photograph: Space Telescope Science Institute/AAP

A team of scientists at the Australian National University has discovered the oldest known star in the universe.

The discovery of the heavenly body, which formed about 13.6bn years ago, has allowed astronomers to study the chemistry of the first stars.

Lead researcher Dr Stefan Keller of the ANU’s Research School of Astronomy and Astrophysics called the find a “one in a 60m chance”.

“I was pleasantly surprised,” Keller said. “It was very much a needle-in-a-haystack situation.”

The team discovered the star using the university’s SkyMapper telescope at the Siding Spring observatory near Coonabarabran in northern New South Wales.

The wide-field telescope is being used to search for ancient stars as part of a project to produce the first digital map of the southern sky.

At the heart of the telescope is a digital camera that uses 268m pixels to capture an area of sky 29 times larger than the full moon every minute.

“Just by imaging the colours of stars, we can tell which stars are prime candidates of being the oldest,” Keller said. “We can tell how much iron it has – the more iron, the younger the star.

“In the case of the star we have announced, the amount of iron present is a factor of at least 60 times less than any other star.”

He described the discovery as a “time capsule” providing new information that defied earlier beliefs about some of the first stars.

He said the newly discovered star had formed in the wake of a primordial star, which had a mass of 60 times that of the sun and died in a supernova explosion.

Keller and his team’s discovery, which was confirmed using the Magellan telescope in Chile, is published in the latest edition of Nature.

Google’s robot army in action.

In the past two months, the Silicon Valley search giant has been buying up some of the world’s most advanced robotics and artifical intelligence companies. Kit Buchan looks at how much bot they are getting for their bucks
  • Boston Dynamics

The desire to make robots seem gentle and appealing is not foremost among Boston Dynamics’ priorities. Its thuggish looking creations, usually inspired by an animal, have largely been developed for the US military, for purposes which are delicately described as “search and rescue” tasks. Boston Dynamics has also developed a humanoid prototype called Atlas, which is able to, in the company’s words, “lift, carry and manipulate the environment”

If Meka is providing the foundations for the top half of Google’s robot, Schaft may offer the bottom. The Japanese designed robot, which stays balanced even when jostled, trounced its rivals at a recent robotics competition held by the US department of defence. It made light work of rugged terrain and even nimbly climbed up and down a ladder

Redwood Robotics
Comprising of the amalgamated expertise of three major developers, including Meka, focused on the elusive goal of developing a fully functioning robotic arm. The arms Redwood is developing will draw on the advances already made by Meka in the area of compliant arms and hands. These already feature a jointed thumb and fingers and nimble elbow and shoulder joints, which regulate their grip and movement in response to human contact.

Industrial perception
Using a unique variety of infra-red vision, IPI equips robots with the ability to see in three dimensions, differentiate between objects and colours, and be more aware of its surroundings than any robot before. Industrial Perception has so far been applied to warehouse robots to aid them handling packages more accurately, but this technology will likely form the eyes for Google’s robot.

The Meka M1 Manipulator is a humanoid torso, head and arms amalgamated into an approachable and friendly looking robot that uses complex series elastic motors to control its fluid, familiar movements. This human approach may be what makes Meka so valuable to Google; the company has also designed a “sociable humanoid head” named Dreamer, with appealing, oversized doe-eyes and colour-changing ears

For its robots’ general movement, Google has hedged its bets by acquiring Holomni, a company that focuses solely on wheels and castors with 360-degree powered movement. Google may have in mind a variety of potential robots – some walking, some wheeled, or perhaps even a robot that combines both approaches to movement

Bot & Dolly

Bot & Dolly’s robots are used in film and TV – for instance in Gravity and Adidas ads. They not only film but also move actors and props in a frame. “If you want to move a cup six inches at two metres per second and have it stop on a dime, we want to give you a tool,” says co-founder Jeff Linnell.


Belfast medics develop X-ray app.

Dr Tom Lynch said the medical and IT worlds have come together to produce something unique

A group of medical consultants in Belfast have teamed up with IT specialists to develop a mobile app that can identify where a doctor is going wrong when interpreting X-rays.

The app helps medics develop their skills.

It also identifies areas of weakness that can be worked on in training and that could potentially save lives.

According to those behind the training tool, it is the first of its kind in the world.

Dr Tom Lynch is among the founders.

He said: “This is the medical and IT worlds coming together in Northern Ireland and producing something which is really unique.”

“Start Quote

Nearly 10,000 doctors are already using the NI developed app”

Dr Tom LynchHead of nuclear medicine, Northern Ireland Cancer Centre

The app provides immediate feedback, and the more it is used by a doctor the more targeted and personalised the feedback becomes.

Each doctor has particular strengths and weaknesses – this app means that the doctors are highlighted and then targeted.

Primarily the device, known as Experior, will be used in accident and emergency and cancer departments, but could eventually be rolled out across all health specialities and even into education, industry and financial services.

Huge potential

Dr Lynch is head of nuclear medicine at the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre in Belfast.

In a coffee shop on Belfast’s Lisburn Road, his iPad allows me to see the app in action. Visibly excited by it, Dr Lynch says it is a simple tool but with huge potential.

On screen there are 30 different X-ray images each displaying a particular condition. The doctor’s task is to identify the diagnosis, submit their answer and have it marked.

Pointing at the screen Dr Lynch said: “For instance this X-ray shows a fractured jaw. This one shows a mass in the upper part of the chest. Another a hairline fracture in the skull.

“Some are obvious some aren’t. But they are typical X-rays that a junior doctor and one who’s been qualified a long time would see in an emergency department.”

Essentially, this is a state-of-the-art testing and training tool – it will be used to improve the decisions made by junior doctors, and lets them know where they have gone wrong, immediately and over the longer term.

Because it is a mobile application, remotely monitored, medics right across the globe can use it.

Dr Lynch added: “We already have doctors as far away as Australia and New Zealand using our app. Wherever a doctor is in the world, X-rays are the same.

“So doctors can be learning wherever they’re based and can study at home or at the hospital. Nearly 10,000 doctors are already using the NI developed app.”

‘World-class solution’

Kevin Donaghy provides the IT expertise.

He said: “When Tom first approached me with the idea of improving the skills of doctors with X-rays, I thought ‘how do we build a solution that can be utilised by doctors and training organisations around the globe? How can we harness the best medical brains in the world to the benefit of all doctors and ultimately, all of their patients?’

“That’s the bottom line – we wanted to develop a device that improves diagnosis and health care for everyone.

“With that in mind we used the ‘lean start-up model’ to prove that we can do this, and lead the way with the best medical and IT expertise in Northern Ireland to deliver a world-class solution. We really believe that Northern Ireland can lead the way in the development of innovative health solutions.”

The BBC understands that the Health Board may be interested in testing the app for 12 months before making a longer-term decision on its use across trusts in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson for the board told the BBC that Northern Ireland has made great strides in recent years in using technology to give clinicians information to support better decisions for patients and clients.

“There is international recognition for our implementation of X-ray image-sharing technology, and the development of the Electronic Care Record that covers all of Northern Ireland. These achievements allow us to reduce the number of tests we perform, and provide better, safer care.

“One really important area is using ‘smart’ online learning to help keep professionals up to date in the latest treatments.

“We are excited by this proposal, and keen to look at how tools like this can help us to support better care. We will be working with this development and others to test whether it helps our staff on the ground.”

Parents unaware of smartphone danger.

Children holding a selection of smartphones
Parents are advised to set talk to their children about how they use their smartphones

Many parents are out of touch with the dangers faced by their children on tablets and smartphones, according to a poll by BBC Learning.

Almost one in five children said they had seen something on their devices that had upset them, twice the number parents had thought.

A separate study found that just over 20% of parents do not monitor what their children are doing online.

The research was commissioned as part of Safer Internet Day.

While 90% of the parents surveyed by the BBC in England said they had spoken to their children about staying safe online when using a tablet or a smartphone, most said they allowed their children to use them unsupervised.

Parental controls

“Unfortunately, none of us – of whatever age – is immune from encountering problems online,” said Tony Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online.

“Without using controls such as built-in security, safety and privacy features and search engine filters, children will almost certainly run into something that really isn’t appropriate for their age, or any age.”

Family online safety

The survey also found that teenagers aged 13-16 were more vulnerable to being bullied online than those aged 8-12. However, parents worried less about the older group using a tablet.

David Emm, senior security researcher at Kaspersky Lab said parents were not often as aware of the dangers of using the internet on tablets and smartphones as they were with PCs.

“When children use mobile devices to access the web, they are using the same internet, with the same risks,” he said.

“There is a common misconception that smartphones and tablets don’t need the same level of protection as a PC.

“But with such a high percentage of parents not having a clear view of their children’s online activity, this way of thinking needs to change.”

Children using tablets
Over 50% of parents had set up filters on their tablets for when children used them

Unmonitored losses

Apple’s iPhone and iPad have restrictions, or parental controls, that can be set using a passcode.

Access to certain apps or websites can be blocked completely or restricted to age appropriate content.

Restricted profile accounts can also be set up on Android smartphones and tablets.

Continue reading the main story

Tips for parents

Tom Neate, chief executive of Get Safe Online has these tips for parents

  • Families should talk openly about what they are doing online
  • If your child has been looking at or exposed to inappropriate content, talk about why it is not a good thing
  • Encourage children to speak to you if they come across something they find worrying or upsetting on websites, games or while social networking

Over 50% of parents who took part in the BBC poll said they had set up parental controls and filters on their tablets but only 40% said they had done the same on their children’s smartphones.

Kapersky Lab’s own survey revealed that 18% of parents had lost money or data from their own phone or tablet because their children had been using it unmonitored.

In-app purchases made by children when playing games on their parents’ phones are often cited as a reason for money being spent unwittingly.

Apple was recently told to refund $32.5m (£19.8m) to parents whose children had made purchases without their parents’ consent.

Adults were also being warned to stay safe online as Microsoft released its annual online consumer safety research.

It showed that 5% of consumers in the UK had fallen victim to a phishing attack – losing on average £100. Meanwhile, 3% said they had suffered identity theft which had ended up costing them £100.

The software giant recommended that users set PINs for their mobile phones and strong passwords for online accounts.

DDT, other Environmental Toxins Linked to Late-Onset Alzheimer’s.

Scientists suspect that, along with genetic factors, toxins and pollutants may increase the risk of developing this debilitating disorder
Elderly women sits next to a window.

Alzheimer’s disease is now the sixth leading cause of death in the U.S., but researchers still do not know what causes the degenerative neurological disorder. In recent years they have pinpointed several genes that seem largely responsible for those cases in which the disorder develops early on, prior to age 60. They have also identified about 20 genes that can increase or decrease risk for the more common late-onset variety that starts appearing in people older than 60.

But genetics simply cannot explain the whole picture for the over five million Americans with late-onset Alzheimer’s. Whereas genetics contribute some risk of developing this version of the disorder, no combination of genes inevitably leads to the disease.

Scientists are now urgently searching for the other missing pieces to explain what causes late-onset Alzheimer’s. Some researchers have shifted their attention from genes to the environment—especially to certain toxins. Their studies of pesticides, food additives, air pollution and other problematic compounds are opening a new front in the battle against this devastating malady. Here’s a roundup of some of the possibilities being studied:

DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane)
Scientists have already found a strong potential link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. Now, a preliminary study released in January suggests that the pesticide DDT, which degrades so slowly that it continues to linger in the environment more than 40 years after the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned its use in the U.S., may also contribute to Alzheimer’s.

Jason Richardson and his team at Rutgers University tested blood samples of people with and without late-onset Alzheimer’s. They found that most participants with the disease had levels of DDT and DDE (a metabolite of DDT) four times greater than the control group. Researchers also observed that participants with the most severe cases of Alzheimer’s had both a genetic predisposition and high pesticide blood levels, indicating that DDT/DDE may interact with genes to trigger the disease.

Richardson doesn’t have a definitive mechanism for how DDT exposure might lead to Alzheimer’s, however. But he speculates that DDT/DDE somehow encourage growth of the amyloid proteins that make up the plaques associated with the disease. He emphasized that his study is preliminary and his results will have to be replicated by future research on a larger scale.

In addition, some of the findings seem to contradict the study’s main conclusion. “The people I find most interesting are the ones who have really high levels of DDT and DDE, but don’t have Alzheimer’s,” Richardson says, “Maybe we’re a little early on those guys and they’ll ultimately end up with the disease. Or what would be more interesting is if their genetic makeup or lifestyle protects them from the disease.”

Another possible culprit for Alzheimer’s comes from the modern American diet. Researcher Suzanne de la Monte of Brown University’s Warren Alpert Medical School believes there is a connection between the rising number of Alzheimer’s cases and the greater amounts of nitrogen-based chemicals added to our food over the past few decades. Along with nitrogen-based fertilizers they include nitrates and nitrites, which are used to preserve, color and to flavor processed foods (as well as those added to tobacco products). In acidic environments, such as the stomach, or at high temperatures, as those reached in cooking, these compounds transform into toxic nitrosamines.

De la Monte’s study showed that nitrosamines damage cells’ energy-producing mitochondria and block insulin receptors in rats. Both of these factors, according to de la Monte, appear to cause neurological damage and encourage the development of insulin-related diseases, including diabetes, as well as cardiovascular disease and Alzheimer’s, in animal studies. Other research in humans also points to insulin resistance as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s. “All the diseases that have changed over the past forty or fifty years are related to insulin resistance and they track really nicely with changes in our food,” de la Monte says. “And nitrosamines, I tend to think they have a huge, huge role.” She is now searching for a biomarker that will allow her to measure nitrosamine exposure in people and see whether her study results translate from animals to humans.

Air pollution
Alzheimer’s researchers have also begun to subject air pollution to scrutiny. Soong Ho Kim reported in the journal F1000Research that mice rapidly developed Alzheimer’s amyloid plaques after exposure to aerosolized nickel nanoparticles, a component of air pollution. A 2004 study of thickly polluted Mexico City autopsied brain tissue of lifelong residents and found amyloid plaques and inflammation spread throughout their brains. Several studies have also found a possible link between dementia and particulate matter, a by-product of combustion already known to damage the cardiovascular system.

Air pollution does not just exist outdoors. In China, whose population is the world’s largest consumer of tobacco, researcher Ruoling Chen of King’s College London studied the effects of secondhand cigarette smoke on the country’s cognitive health. His research team assessed almost 6,000 people over age 60 in China’s cities and rural areas for their exposure to secondhand smoke. Chen reported in Alzheimer’s & Dementia that participants with the most severe dementia had been subjected to high levels of secondhand smoke. Chen interviewed people to assess their exposure, which is a standard study method but may be unreliable because participants may not accurately recall their exposure.

A difficult road ahead
Researchers acknowledge that it’s extremely difficult to discover links between environmental toxins and Alzheimer’s. Unlike DDT, most toxins do not persist in the body, which makes it hard for researchers to gauge a lifetime of exposure. If an environmental toxin does prove a risk factor, it will be only one part of a complex equation that includes genetics, lifestyle and possibly other environmental exposures that increase the chances of developing Alzheimer’s with age.

Alzheimer’s researchers have also been led astray in the past when they attempted to link environmental pollutants to the disease. In the 1970s and 1980s it was widely believed that aluminum caused Alzheimer’s because scientists discovered aluminum collected in amyloid plaques. But most researchers no longer accept this theorybecause subsequent studies showed that it was merely an innocuous coincidence that occurred due to the attraction between aluminum ions and amyloid plaques.

Richardson says that the claims about aluminum “likely poisoned the well” for later research on environmental factors. But this kind of research has become increasingly urgent as more people develop late-onset Alzheimer’s and no current treatment exists to prevent or even significantly delay to disease. According to Professor Steven DeKosky at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, it would make a huge difference if researchers found a way to even just postpone Alzheimer’s. “If you could delay onset of the disease by five years, you could cut down on about 50 percent of the cases,” DeKosky says. “If you could delay onset by 10 years, you could virtually wipe Alzheimer’s out because you’d have people live to the end of their lives without getting the disease.”

Espionage malware may be state-sponsored, researchers say

Security researchers said Monday they discovered cyber-espionage malware which has hit governments and companies in 31 countries and is likely state-sponsored.

Kaspersky Lab researchers said the Spanish-language  known as “The Mask” or “Careto” has been used since at least 2007 and is unusually complex, with versions that may infect mobile phones and tablets, including those running Apple or Google operating systems.

The researchers said the authors who appear to be Spanish speakers may use the virus to steal sensitive documents as well as encryption keys.

The main targets appear to be government and diplomatic offices, energy companies, research organizations, private equity firms and political activists, according to a white paper from Kaspersky.

“For the victims, an infection with Careto can be disastrous,” the security firm said in a statement.

“Careto intercepts all communication channels and collects the most vital information from the victim’s machine. Detection is extremely difficult because of stealth rootkit capabilities, built-in functionalities and additional cyber-espionage modules.”

Once a device is infected, the malware authors can intercept network traffic, keystrokes, Skype conversations and steal information from devices connected to the networks.

The researchers said in their report they detected “traces of Linux versions, and possibly versions for iPad/iPhone and Android, however we have not been able to retrieve the samples.”

The malware was active from 2007 until last month, when the command servers were shut down during Kaspersky’s investigation, the researchers said.

“Several reasons make us believe this could be a nation-state sponsored campaign,” Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said.

Raiu said the authors showed a high degree of technical sophistication and have been able to hide their activities so far.

“This level of operational security is not normal for cyber-criminal groups,” he said.

“The fact that the Careto attackers appear to be speaking the Spanish language is perhaps the most unusual feature,” the research paper said.

“While most of the known attacks nowadays are filled with Chinese comments, languages such as German, French or Spanish appear very rarely in APT (advanced persistent threat) attacks.”

The investigation found 380 victims in 31 countries, the most infected of which were Morocco, Brazil, Britain, Spain, France, Switzerland, Libya, the United States, Iran and Venezuela.

Electronic whiskers could help robots navigate.

Photograph of several electronic whiskers used to map airf low

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have made highly sensitive, lightweight “electronic whiskers” that can detect the lightest of touches or a gentle breeze. Made from a mixture of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles, the whiskers could be used to create “skin” for robots and in interfaces between humans and machines, says the team.

Animals use their whiskers to gauge the wind and to navigate around obstacles. The new electronic whiskers, or e-whiskers, made by Ali Javey’s team could be the next best thing to their natural counterparts in terms of size and weight. The researchers made the whiskers by painting composite films of carbon nanotubes and silver nanoparticles onto thin elastic fibres made of the polymer PDMA. The carbon-nanotube “paste” forms a conductive matrix that can be bent and unbent at will without suffering any damage. The silver nanoparticles further increase the conductivity of the composite and also make it highly sensitive to strain.

“The strain sensitivity and electrical resistivity of our composite film is readily tuned by changing the composition ratio of the carbon nanotubes and the silver nanoparticles,” explains Javey.

When the e-whiskers experience a light touch or a gentle breeze, they bend and their resistance changes dramatically. The structures are sensitive to changes in pressure of just 8% – the highest value reported to date for such tactile sensors.

Better-balanced robots

If mounted into arrays, the whiskers could be placed on robotic e-skin so that the machines are better able to navigate. They could also be used in human–machine interfaces, says team member Zhibin Yu. “They might even be ideal for some medical applications, for example in devices that monitor heartbeat and blood pressure,” he says.

The Berkeley team says that it is now looking to make the devices using different printing processes and produce them on a larger scale.

Structures such as these whiskers that mimic biological systems could help in the development of so-called smart and user-interactive electronics, explains Yu. Researchers have already made rudimentary e-skin and electronic eyes on thin, flexible substrates. Such devices are capable of “feeling” and “seeing” their local environment. “Electronic whiskers are another important class of sensor, capable of monitoring surrounding air flow and touch,” he says. “They can also spatially map nearby objects (just like naturally occurring whiskers) – a property that might help improve balance in robots of the future.”

Human Brains Now Understand Smiley Emoticon Like A Real Face.

The brain is great at recognizing faces. When you see a face, specific areas of theoccipitotemporal cortex are activated. But what about emoticons, such as the smiley face–how does the brain react? Is it possible that they might be seen similarly to faces, which they are meant to represent? This question occurred to Australian researcher Owen Churches after reading several emails from students, several of them asking for an extension on a paper, and ending with a smiley face like this 🙂

LOL. So Churches put the question to the test, measuring the electrical activity in the brains of 20 participants (perhaps some picked as a punishment for requesting an extension?) while exposing them to human faces, emoticons, and random strings of punctuation. When smiley faces were presented in the typical configuration, with the colon to the left like :-), they activated the same areas of the participants’ brains as human faces. However, when smiley faces were presented in the opposite configuration with the colon to the right (-: they did not elicit the same reaction, and were viewed as punctuation marks. Real human faces, however, were recognized as such, even when presented upside down.

This wouldn’t have been the case before the smiley face emoticon was first used by Carnegie Mellon University computer scientist Scott Fahlman in 1982, as the Australian Broadcasting Corp explained:

“There is no innate neural response to emoticons that babies are born with. Before 1982 there would be no reason that ‘:-)’ would activate face sensitive areas of the cortex but now it does because we’ve learnt that this represents a face,” says Churches. “This is an entirely culturally-created neural response. It’s really quite amazing.”

This emoticon is perceived thus because it is now widely recognized as a stylized version of a human face, with signifiers for the eyes (colon), nose (dash), and mouth (closed parenthesis), according to the study. One wonders if the same holds true for other emoticons, such as flirty abject horror, which in case you need to be told, is .

7 Beautiful Ways to Build the Friendship with Your Self.

“Friendship with one’s self is all important, because without it one cannot be friends with anyone else in the world.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

We run around begging for love, attention and validation from everyone around us. We think that our salvation, our happiness and our sense of wholeness will come from outside ourselves. We look for “special” people that will make us feel “special. We buy all kind of expensive things, to make us feel unique and important. We live our lives in a way that makes sense for others but not for ourselves. We surround ourselves with people who make us feel so lonely. We engage in unnecessary conversations and we force ourselves into building meaningless friendships.

We look for love in all the wrong places; we cling on to all kind of unhealthy relationships and experiences and we get our sense of worth from all kind of weird weird places.

We clutter our lives with all kind of glorious, expensive and precious things and the more stuff we accumulate, the less we seem to have and the emptier our lives seem to get.

Until we don’t build the friendship we have with ourselves, none of these things will bring us long lasting happiness… none of these things will make us feel whole and complete…

We run in circles. We bump our heads from wall to wall. We’re sleep walking, unaware of the harm we are doing to ourselves and to others.

Life is easy, it really is but we choose to complicate it.

I have realized that the closer you get to your Self and the stronger the friendship you build with your Self becomes, the easier life gets and the happier you become.

“If you make friends with yourself you will never be alone.” ~ Maxwell Maltz

What I will share with you below are 7 beautiful ways to help you build the friendship you have with your Self so that you can attract all the love, happiness and abundance that you so much desire:

1. Spend quality time with your Self

How do you build strong, healthy, loving and supportive friendships? By spending quality time with the people you wanna be friends with. The same goes with the friendship with your Self.

Commit yourself to giving more of your time, your love, your energy and your attention to your loving Soul and lovable Self. Do more of the things that nurture your heart, your mind, your body and your soul. Engage yourself in activities that are meaningful to you, activities that awaken the Soul, rejuvenates the mind and renews the body.

2. Take time to renew, refresh and rejuvenate your Self

No matter how busy you are and no matter how many urgent and important things you have to do on a daily basis, it’s crucial that you make some time to renew, refresh and rejuvenate yourself. The world will not come to an end simply because you took a break to nurture your Self.

When you are centered and at peace with yourself and everything that is happening around you, it is a lot easier to be more present and more engaged in everything you do. You have a lot more energy to do many of the things you need to do, the quality of your work improves, your relationships seem to flourish, your partner is happier because of you and you just feel good.

Whenever you feel like you really need to take a break to renew, refresh and rejuvenate your Self, take it! It’s not just you who will benefit from you recharging your Self, but everyone around you.

3. Acknowledge your Self

We all want to be appreciated and acknowledged by those around us, for who we are and for what we do, but what about appreciation and acknowledgment from our own Self? We expect so much from others but not so much from ourselves. Does this make any sense to you?

We all have a little child within us that needs to feel loved, appreciated and acknowledged, not so much by other people but by our own Self. Take time to appreciate, acknowledge and express your gratitude for the beautiful being that you are and for the wonderful things you have done so far. Take time to love and nurture your Self. Take time to prove your Self that you really matter and that you are valued. Give to your Self the love, appreciation and acknowledgment that what you expect from others.

4. Give more of your Self

Each and every one of us has something unique and of great value to offer to the world. The more we work on connecting with who we really are at a deeper level, and the stronger the friendship with our Self becomes, the easier it will be for us to discover what our unique gifts are and the easier it will be to share these gifts with the world.

Giving is a sign of having and the more you give, the more life will give back to you. Give more of your Self to the world. Give more of your love and attention; give more of your unique gifts and talents; give more of your laughter, your joyful energy and give more of your beautiful presence.

5. Empty your mind of all thoughts

“Stop thinking, and end your problems. What difference between yes and no? What difference between success and failure? Must you value what others value, avoid what others avoid? How ridiculous!” ~ Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

They say that on a daily basis there are 60,000 thoughts that run through our minds and that 75% of these thoughts are repetitive and negative. We are damaging ourselves by allowing our minds to bully us into thinking that our lives are a lot worse than they actually are. We allow our minds to bully us into thinking that there is something wrong with us. As a result, we begin to look for love, validation and approval outside ourselves. We buy things we don’t really need to impress people we don’t actually like and we build our build our lives on a shaky foundation.

Step back from your own mind. Empty your mind of all thoughts. Detach from all the drama that your mind is trying to create and realize that you and your thoughts are not the same. Empty your mind of all thoughts. Spend at least 5 to 10 minutes every in silence. Focus on your breathing. Observe the thoughts that run through your mind and the noise that is up there. You are are that noise and you are not those thoughts, you are the one observing that noise and those thoughts.

6. Set your boundaries

By constantly saying “yes” when you know deep down inside that you actually meant to say “no”, and by constantly trying to please those around you just so you can feel loved and appreciated, you will continue to make yourself very unhappy. Why? Because you will continue to betray your own feelings just so you can please them…

People treat you the way you allow them to treat you, the way you teach them to treat you. Learn to say “no” when you feel like saying “no” and “yes” only when you truly feel like saying “yes”. Set your boundaries. Let people know what you tolerate and what you don’t. Honor your integrity and you will gain a lot respect, love and admiration from those around you because of this.

7. Commit your Self to life long learning

If each and every one of us would commit ourselves to life long learning and to doing the things that bring us joy, happiness and fulfillment, the world would become a much happier, brighter and richer place, and in time, poverty will cease to exist.

7 Beautiful Ways to Build the Friendship with Your Self

We all have our own path to walk, our own destiny to fulfill. By taking one step at a time, by working each day to improving the relationship we have with ourselves and by doing the things that have real meaning to us, we are able to understand what the meaning of life is and we are able to discover why we are all here for.

We all have our own role to play, and just like Martin Luther King, Jr. said it, “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”  ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are all in this together. I do my part and you do yours. The more love we poor into everything we do, the more we learn to treasure who we are and the stronger the friendship with our Self becomes, the more meaningful our lives will get and the happier we will all become. To paraphrase Carl Jung, our vision will become clear only by looking inside our hearts. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. And I hope you’ll awaken…

Bionic humans are about to get an upgrade, thanks to monkey cyborgs.

Bionic humans are about to get an upgrade, thanks to monkey cyborgs

In a big step towards making humans more bionic, scientists have trained monkeys to control not just one, but two virtual arms by thoughts alone. The work could someday be a boon to double amputees or quadriplegics.

In 2011, researchers led by Duke University neuroscientist Miguel Nicolelis demonstrated a unique two-way interface between mind and machine. The team began by recording activity from up to 200 neurons in the brains of monkeys. Once computer algorithms understood how different neuronal patterns led to specific arm motions, the researchers transposed those movement commands into a virtual world, allowing the monkeys to control a virtual arm. Next, by adding in a technique called intracortical microstimulation, which electrically stimulates sensory neurons in the brain, the researchers gave the monkeys the ability to “feel” the virtual objects they manipulated.

It was a cool, groundbreaking experiment, which had implications for instilling touch into prosthetics in the future. But like the brain-machine interface (BMI) studies that came before and after it, the work only gave monkeys control of a single limb. This limitation lies in how the brain works to produce movement.

Research has shown that the brain doesn’t encode the movement of two arms at once as a simple sum of the movement of two independent arms. Instead, the specific patterns of activity in the brain are completely different. This means that the neuronal patterns that researchers have recorded for single-arm movements will not work — at all — for moving two virtual or prosthetic limbs.

So Nicolelis, who was also behind that trippy mind-meld mouse experiment from earlier this year, set out to create a BMI that allows monkeys to control two virtual arms with their thoughts alone. “Bimanual movements in our daily activities — from typing on a keyboard to opening a can — are critically important,” he said in a statement. “Future brain-machine interfaces aimed at restoring mobility in humans will have to incorporate multiple limbs to greatly benefit severely paralyzed patients.”

Connecting the Mind to the Machine

Nicolelis and his colleagues began by implanting electrodes into the brains of two monkeys, which recorded the electrical activity of nearly 500 neurons acting together. This is the highest number of neurons simultaneously recorded in nonhuman primates to date, the researchers note in their study, published recently in the journal Science Translation. The neurons were situated across both brain hemispheres, in the monkeys’ supplementary motor area, primary motor cortex and posterior parietal cortex — areas that work together to plan and execute movement.

The researchers trained one of the monkeys to control the movement of two avatar monkey arms on a computer screen using two joysticks. To get a juice reward, it had to simultaneously place the virtual arms over two virtual objects for one-tenth of a second. While the primate worked at its task, a computer algorithm analyzed the monkey’s neuronal activity to determine how different patterns related to specific arm movements.

Once the algorithm could accurately predict the monkey’s movements based on its brain patterns, the researchers moved on to phase two. The monkey repeated its tasks from the first part of the experiment, but this time the joysticks were disconnected — the primate was actually moving the two avatar arms with just its thoughts, which were being decoded by the computer algorithm. The researchers removed the joysticks altogether and strapped the monkey into a chair so it couldn’t move its arms. The monkey quickly learned to move the virtual arms by thoughts alone.

Importantly, this kind of setup cannot be used for paralyzed and amputee patients, who are unable to train the algorithm by playing with joysticks. So the researchers had the second monkey go through a different training program. Here, the team stuck the monkey into a chair and secured its hands on a table in front of it. The monkey simply watched the avatar arms move around on screen, while the algorithm correlated the monkey’s brain patterns with the movement of the avatar arms. It took longer, but the monkey was eventually able to control the virtual arms with thoughts, too.

The researchers think that in the future, the process of controlling two avatar arms with the mind could be translated to controlling two prosthetic arms. However, this goal may not be reached any time soon, as the movements the monkeys achieved were quite simple. “It still remains to be tested how well BMIs would control motor activities requiring precise interlimb coordination,” they write in their paper.