Does the human brain have hidden super-powers?

By Mark O’Neill

head_and_brain.jpgBeing epileptic, I have had a deep interest in neuroscience for almost twenty years, and one of the most common things we know about the brain is that there’s a lot of things we still DON’T know about it.

But thanks to some accident victims who have subsequently suffered severe brain trauma, scientists have been able to unlock multiple “super-abilities” of the brain, abilities that ALL of us may have lying dormant – and undiscovered – within our heads – Heroes style.

Not all of the test cases owe their remarkable abilities to head injuries though. Some of the people involved are autistic such as Stephen Wiltshire who can glance at something and then make intricate drawings of it. Or Daniel Tammet whose near-fatal epileptic seizures now give him stunning talents including the ability to learn perfectly one of the most difficult languages ever, Icelandic, in only 7 days.

But it is the head injury cases which have excited scientists the most. It seems that damage to the brain has activated these normally dormant abilities and we are then given a startling glimpse into what the human mind is capable of doing.

Watch the following YouTube video to see Daniel Tammet in action doing complex mathematical calculations in his head – and watch him beat the calculator!




Reddit River – a mobile river of stories for Reddit fans

By Mark O’Neill

Digg may get all the relentless fawning but Reddit isn’t that bad either at the end of the day (Mixx is another goodie). I was introduced to Reddit by Kiltak who swears by it.

One other Reddit fan has proved that the love is there by creating a mobile version of the site which is apparently three times lighter than the regular site.

Reddit River is run using Python. It automatically detects mobile versions of all the links on Reddit’s front page and redirects you there when you click on one. For example, if it finds a printable version of a linked article on the Washington post, it sends you there.

This is especially handy if you’re trying to access the page on your phone and speed is of the essence. You don’t want to be standing there with the phone in your hand while it tries to download a large JPG picture of Britney Spears spreading her legs.

Gmail & Outlook Synchronization Service launched

By Mark O’Neill

Mailshadow for GoogleMr William Gates is probably cursing in his Cheerios at the moment. A company called Cemaphore Systems has announced the launch of a new product that will allow Gmail users to completely do away with their Microsoft Exchange servers and run Microsoft Outlook directly from Google servers instead.

Called Mailshadow for Google Apps, it is already being hailed by industry analysts as the product that will make Gmail skyrocket. Since a lot of businesses operate on Outlook, using Mailshadow to synchronise email, address books and calendars will encourage a lot more people to use Gmail and Outlook together for work.

Google has offered Outlook access to Gmail for quite a while, but it seems that Mailshadow is the first product to offer across-the-board synchronization for email, address books and calendars between Microsoft Outlook and Gmail.

What do you think? Is this something you would use?



Comcast does 180 on P2P blocking

By PatB
Contributing Writer, [GAS]

I have written here a few times that Comcast was justified in using traffic shaping to protect equal access among all of their customers.  Because of the aggressiveness of the bittorrent P2P protocol, neighbors on the shared pipe could have experienced slowdowns.  To fix this, Comcast was sending resets on some of the connections to inhibit the full speed of file sharing applications.

But now they have declared that they will reengineer their network to better provide full access and a network neutral position.  So why did they change their minds?  Because of competition.  Verizon worked with P2P vendor Pando to speed up their network’s handling of Bittorrent traffic.  So now Comcast is doing the same.

From the AP here:

Comcast Corp., an Internet service provider under investigation for hampering online file-sharing by its subscribers, announced Thursday an about-face in its stance and said it will treat all types of Internet traffic equally.

Comcast has said that its practices were necessary to keep file-sharing traffic from overwhelming local cable lines, where neighbors share capacity with one another. On Thursday, Comcast said that by the end of the year, it will move to a system that manages capacity without favoring one type of traffic over another.

“This means that we will have to rapidly reconfigure our network management systems, but the outcome will be a traffic management technique that is more appropriate for today’s emerging Internet trends,” Tony Werner, Comcast’s chief technology officer, said in a statement.

Comcast now says it is in talks with BitTorrent Inc., the company founded by the creator of the protocol, to come up with better ways to transport large files over the Internet. The companies said they want to work out these issues privately, without the need for government intervention.

For its part, BitTorrent acknowledged that service providers have to manage their networks somehow, especially during peak times.

“While we think there were other management techniques that could have been deployed, we understand why Comcast and other ISPs adopted the approach that they did initially,” Eric Klinker, BitTorrent’s chief technology officer, said in a statement.

Verizon Communications Inc. two weeks ago announced the results of a collaboration project with Pando Networks, another file-sharing company. By sharing information with Pando, Verizon was able to speed up file-sharing downloads for its subscribers while reducing the strain on its own network.

Note that Comcast did not bow to customer pressure or to the hysterical outrage in the community over net neutrality.  They are simply responding to the natural demands of the market.  When a great competitor like Verizon proves that they can have their P2P cake and eat it too, Comcast would naturally have to follow.  And I think this shows who are the real leaders in this market space.

The Sarah Connor Chronicles – a worthy addition to the Terminator?

By Mark O’Neill

Arnold may have moved onto California to “lead, not to read” as Governor but the Terminator story continues nevertheless in the form of the Sarah Connor Chronicles. As geek fans wait with baited breath to see if a season 2 is about to be commissioned (the signs are good), the debate rages online – is the series a worthy addition to the Terminator series? Or is it nothing more than an embarrassing joke which should be consigned to TV hell?

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Intel promises Wi-Fi over 60 miles

Intel announced this week they are working on a new Wi-Fi solution with a maximum range of 60 miles. Scheduled for release in the second half of 2008, Intel’s Rural Connectivity Platform (RCP) will allow people living in areas unsupported by high-speed infrastructures to get on the net at a speed of up to 6.5 Mbps.

To make the solution work, a city interested in getting the service needs to purchase 2 routers, priced at about $500 each. Then, both routers will have to be set up in a point-to-point connection between a node that has access to high-speed Internet, and one in the locality needing coverage. From this point, access could be provided to the area using standard cables and wireless routers.

Not only will RCP help bring schools in rural locations access to the modern world, but I also see the technology being of great help to medical services and humanitarian organizations all around the globe.

The following video provides more details about RCP.

NY Bus Stop: In Case of Sith, Break Glass and Use Lightsaber

Unfortunately, I don’t think these lightsabers are actually of the real, flesh-disintegrating kind. That’s just too bad, they may come in handy in case of an eventual full-scale Sith invasion. Kudos to the folks at SpikeTV for this brilliant marketing idea. For those of you who live in New York, this bus-shelter ad is located on the corner of West 34th and Eighth Avenue.

[Via amNewYork]