Sometimes, it occurs when a person suffers a nearly fatal accident or life-threatening situation. In others, they are born with a developmental disorder, such as autism. But a slim margin of each group develop remarkable capabilities, such as being able to picture advanced mathematical figures in one's head, have perfect recall, or to draw whole cityscapes from memory alone. This is known as savant syndrome. Of course, it’s exceedingly rare. But how does it work? And do we all hide spectacular capabilities deep within our brain?

In 2002, 31-year-old Jason Padgett, a community college dropout and self-described “goof,” was mugged outside of a karaoke bar. Two men knocked him down and kicked him in the back of the head repeatedly, leaving him unconscious. Padgett was checked out and sent home from the hospital that same night.

He’d suffered a serious concussion but didn’t know it, until the next morning when he noticed something peculiar. Upon entering the bathroom and turning on the faucet, he saw “lines emanating out perpendicularly from the flow.” He couldn’t believe it.

“At first, I was startled, and worried for myself, but it was so beautiful that I just stood in my slippers and stared.” It was like, “watching a slow-motion film.” He soon realized that he could see geometric shapes and fractals—irregular patterns that repeat themselves, in everything. “It’s just really beautiful,” he said. 

Padgett began to find that he could intuitively understand the mathematical nature of everything around him. Before, he never rose beyond pre-Algebra. After the incident, he became infatuated with fractals and pi. His perception had completely changed. He soon grew obsessed with all the shapes he found in his house.

In his memoir, Struck by Genius: How a Brain Injury Made Me a Mathematical Marvel, Padgett writes, “I noticed the light bouncing off a car window in the form of an arc, and the concept came to life. It clicked for me-­because the circle I saw was subdivided by light rays, and I realized each ray was really a representation of pi.”

Freehand fractal drawing created by Jason Padgett. Wikimedia Commons

He soon locked himself away and began drawing precise and beautiful geometric figures for days and sometimes, weeks at a time. Padgett is one of the few people on earth who can draw fractals accurately, freehand. He became a germaphobe too and rather than seeing it as a gift, he started to wonder whether or not he was mentally ill.

He’d acquired an exceedingly rare condition. Only about 70 people in the world so far have been identified with savant syndrome. There are two ways for it to occur, either through an injury that causes brain damage or through a disorder, such as autism.

We’re familiar with the autistic savant, like the 1988 hit movie Rain Man, where the main character, played by Dustin Hoffman, can count a large number of toothpicks spilled onto the floor, instantaneously. It’s estimated that around 50% of those with savant syndrome are autistic.

The other 50% are either due to an injury to the central nervous system or a developmental disorder. Some researchers believe at least 10% of those with autism have some form of savant-like talent. Acquired savant syndrome is far rarer.

World renowned savant Daniel Tammet. Getty Images.

Things changed for Padgett after he saw a BBC documentary about Daniel Tammet. The British, autistic savant can recite pi to the 22,514th place, speaks 10 different languages—two he made up himself, and performs intricate mathematical calculations in his head, at lightning speed.

He’s also a synthete, meaning he experiences numbers not only visually, but as colors and geometric figures, as well. (Synesthesia is the blending of the senses, like certain letters having corresponding colors or letters-flavors. Or how certain people claim to smell music, in addition to hearing it. Synesthesia occurs in a variety of ways and differs widely from one person to the next).

Other famous savants include British-borne Stephen Wiltshire, who can draw panoramic cityscapes accurately, from memory, Dr. Anthony Cicoria, an orthopedic surgeon from New York, who, after being struck by lightning, can suddenly play the piano, and Alonzo Clemens who, after falling on his head as a child, can sculpt any animal from memory—down to the minutest detail.

Padgett soon contacted psychiatrist Dr. Darold Treffert, who’s been studying savant syndrome for over 50 years. “The most common ability to emerge is art, followed by music,” Treffert told The Guardian. “But I’ve had cases where brain damage makes people suddenly interested in dance, or in Pinball Wizard.”

In 2011, Padgett underwent an fMRI, along with transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS). It was discovered the left side of his brain had become more active, while the right side far less so. Dr. Treffert contends that savant syndrome has to do with neuroplasticity—the brains remarkable ability to repair and rewire itself. Studies have shown that those who have acquired savant syndrome often sustained damage to the front area of their left temporal lobe.

According to Dr. Treffert,

“Following an injury to the brain, there’s recruitment of undamaged cortex from elsewhere in the brain, then there’s rewiring to that undamaged area, and a release of dormant potential. It’s a compensatory mechanism involving areas that may have been dormant, or areas that are ‘stolen’ and their function changed.”

Scientists began to wonder, what if they were to induce such conditions. Would it trigger a savant-like state in a subject?

Scientists have developed a “thinking cap,” which can increase cognitive abilities. Getty Images.

Neuroscientist Allan Snyder at the University of Sydney, Australia, is doing exactly that, with what he calls the “thinking cap." This is a rubber strap with two conductors. It’s fastened around the head and provides low levels of electricity to incapacitate a certain part of the brain. Tests on subjects have shown it induces savant-like skills including improved memory, better attention to detail, more creativity, better proofreading skills, and even better problem-solving. These capabilities fade about an hour after the cap is removed.

We are just now entering a golden age of neuroscience, according to neurobiologist Nicholas Spitzer at the University of California, San Diego. Initiatives to unearth the secrets of the human brain are ongoing at numerous institutions around the world. Prof. Spitzer predicts that in the coming decades, besides advancements in imaging technology, we’ll be able to send nanobots inside the brain that are so small, they’ll be able to enter and travel along neurons. Moreover, they’ll be able to communicate back their findings through Wi-Fi.

We’ll also be able to attach implants that can hook our brains up to computers and Wi-Fi, giving us instantaneous knowledge, and the ability to control devices with our minds. It may also be possible to identify and stimulate innate capabilities and in this way, awaken one’s latent savant. First, we’ll have to figure out if everyone has the ability to become a savant or not. And if so, what’s required on a neurological basis to get us there.

To learn more about the thinking cap, click here: 

Source :  bigthink.com

Categorized in Science & Tech

The 2014-J25 boulder will hurtle past the planet within 1.1 million miles - less than five times the distance to the moon

Earth will have a near-miss with an asteroid as big as the Rock of Gibraltar next week, astronomers claimed.

NASA scientists said the gigantic boulder, dubbed 2014-J25, will hurtle past Earth on April 19 within 1.1 million miles - less than five times the distance to the moon.

But despite the uncomfortably close distance, experts said there was no chance of a collision.

NASA said in a statement: "Although there is no possibility for the asteroid to collide with our planet, this will be a very close approach for an asteroid this size."

The asteroid is said to be as big as the Rock of Gibraltar (Photo: Getty Images)

The flyby has been billed by the US space agency as an "outstanding opportunity" for astronomers and amateur stargazers.

Experts said the asteroid should be visible with a small optical telescope for one or two nights before it moves out of range.

It added: "Astronomers plan to observe it with telescopes around the world to learn as much about it as possible."

    The asteroid will pass closest to our planet after a loop around the sun and then travel past Jupiter before heading back to the centre of the solar system.

    NASA say the asteroid will be visible with a telescope from Earth before it moves out of range (Photo: EyeEm)

    Smaller asteroids whizz by Earth several times a week but none this size have come as close as the 2014-JO25 since 2004 when the Toutatis rock passed within four lunar distances.

    The last time 2014-JO25 was in our immediate neighbourhood was 400 years ago, and it's next brush with Earth won't happen until sometime after 2600.

      It was discovered in May 2014 by astronomers at the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson, Arizona.

      NASA predicted the next close encounter with a big rock will not happen before 2027, when the 800-metre wide asteroid 199-AN10 will fly by Earth at just one lunar distance, about 380,000 km (236,000 miles).

      Source : mirror.co.uk

      Categorized in Science & Tech

      The lead research said his curiosity about why shoelaces came undone intensified when he began teaching his child how to tie them. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

      Researchers discover how laces come undone and offer alternative way to tie them that does knot involve your granny

      Things can start to unravel at any moment, but when failure occurs it is swift and catastrophic. This is the conclusion of a scientific investigation into what might be described as Sod’s law of shoelaces.

      The study focused on the mysterious phenomenon by which a shoe is neatly and securely tied one moment, and the next a flapping lace is threatening to trip you up – possibly as you are running for the bus or striding with professional purpose across your open-plan office.

      In a series of experiments involving a human runner on a treadmill and a mechanical leg designed to swing and stomp, the scientists revealed that shoelace knot failure happens in a matter of seconds, triggered by a complex interaction of forces.

      Oliver O’Reilly, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of California Berkeley and the study’s senior author, said: “It’s unpredictable but when it happens, it’s in two or three strides and it’s catastrophic. There’s no way of coming back from it.”

      The study found that the stomping of the foot gradually loosens the knot while the whipping forces produced by the swing of the foot act like hands tugging on the ends of the laces. As the tension in the knot eases and the free ends start to slide, a runaway effect takes hold and the knot suddenly unravels.

      The findings also revealed what knot experts, such as sailors and surgeons, have long suggested: that the granny knot many of us use to tie our laces comes undone far quicker than an alternative method that is no more complex.

      Robert Matthews, a physicist at Aston University in Birmingham who was not involved in the latest work, said: “It’s provided hard scientific backing for what many people have long suspected: that the traditional way of tying shoelaces is pretty rubbish.”

      O’Reilly said he was inspired to investigate after spending decades pondering why laces spontaneously unknot themselves – an intellectual niggle that intensified when he came to teach his daughter how to tie her laces.

      The scientist enlisted a pair of PhD students and initial tests revealed that sitting on a chair and swinging your leg or stamping your foot does not generally cause a knot to come undone. It appeared to be a combination of both motions that conspired to unravel laces.

      Next, the scientists captured slow-motion video of a runner on a treadmill. They found that the foot strikes the ground at seven times the force of gravity and as the fabric of the shoe squashes down on impact, extra lace is freed at the top of the shoe, causing the knot to loosen slightly with each stride. Meanwhile, the swinging leg causes the lace’s free ends to whip back and forth tugging them outwards. As the knot loosens, the friction holding the knot tight decreases, and as the free ends lengthen, the whipping force goes up, leading to an avalanche effect.

      “The interesting thing about this mechanism is that your laces can be fine for a really long time, and it’s not until you get one little bit of motion to cause loosening that starts this avalanche effect leading to knot failure,” said Christine Gregg, a graduate student at UC Berkeley and a co-author.

      The scientists tested two basic versions of the standard knot and bow: the square knot and the weaker granny knot. In a square knot, you start by crossing the lace in your right hand in front of the one in your left hand and then threading it under the left one. For the bow you repeat the process, but crossing the end that’s now in your right hand behind the one in your left (with added loops to make the bow). In a granny knot the same overhand motion is repeated for both knot and bow.

      According to the data, the lace slippage rate was cut by at least a factor of five using a square knot compared with a granny knot. “Simply reversing the way we form the final knot when tying laces makes a huge difference,” Matthews said.

      O’Reilly said: “With the strong [square] knot you might be able to get through the day without it failing.” Although he admitted to still using the granny knot himself through habit.

      The study suggests the square knot works better because the impact of the foot loosens the knot more slowly, but the scientists were not able to establish why this is the case.

      The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

      Source : theguardian.com

      Categorized in Others

      It seemed as though there was a piece missing from the solar system when Pluto got declassified as a planet and reclassified as a dwarf planet instead. Since then, several other Pluto-like bodies have been discovered beyond the orbit of Neptune, but none that qualify as being a planet, unfortunately. However, all is not lost as more recently indirect evidence points to a Uranus-sized planet lurking near the outer edge of the solar system.

      Categorized in Science & Tech

      James Gunn’s forthcoming Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 features a character named Groot: a talking tree, voiced by Vin Diesel, capable only of saying his own name (albeit in a multitude of different ways).

      Poor Groot appeared to have met his demise at the end of the last Guardians movie but, to the delight of fans everywhere, regenerated from a cutting as the adorable Baby Groot.

      Guardians of The Galaxy's 'baby Groot'
      Guardians of The Galaxy's 'baby Groot'

      Ahead of the soon to be released sequel, however, new research suggests that the concept of “talking trees” isn’t just confined to the realms of fantasy and science fiction.

      Previous research has suggested that woodland trees may be able communicate and exchange nutrients through underground fungal networks.

      But certain rainforest species, scientists revealed this week, have developed a rudimentary “language”, allowing individual plants to exchange detailed information about soil conditions, temperature changes and possible threats.

      Unlike Groot, these trees have also mastered more than one “word”.

      The Amazon rainforest
      The Amazon rainforest

      Hevea brasiliensis, also known as the rubber tree, was observed making minute movements in its root hairs and branches and emitting coded electrical signals, which receptors on other plants of the same kind were able to pick up on.

      One combination, scientists found, indicated that a rain storm was on its way. Younger plants, still adjusting to life in the forest, were able to “hear” the message and utilise their moisture supplies accordingly.

      Coded chemical signals can warn younger plants of impending weather changes
      Coded chemical signals can warn younger plants of impending weather changes

      The two-year-long Brazil-based study also showed that socratea exorrhiza, otherwise known as the walking palm, was able to use a combination of carefully adjusted leaf-rustling sounds and a high-pitched “scream”, inaudible to human ears, to warn that danger – from a hungry herbivore, for example – was in the area.

      Most astounding of all, however, was the revelation that the trees don’t just communicate essential information. Instead, they share anecdotes, "sing", and sometimes appear to comfort each other.

      Remarkably, they even have a sense of humour.

      The 1995 Disney film Pocahontas featured an animated talking tree, Grandmother Willow
      The 1995 Disney film Pocahontas featured an animated talking tree, Grandmother Willow

      Scientists were initially puzzled when they found that some species were sharing false information – then emitting a complex series of high-frequency noises and chemical signals a few minutes later.

      “We were unclear exactly what we were dealing with, until we realised that we had discovered the tree equivalent of a practical joke,” Professor Mark Sinclair, co-author of the new study, told The Telegraph.

      “In one case, a socratea palm managed to convince nearby specimens that a group of hungry beetles was heading their way. Once it sensed the other palms were panicking, it emitted a signal indicating that there was nothing to worry about, followed by what we can only describe as 'a cheeky giggle'.

      “The trees were deliberately exchanging false information, fooling the other trees into responding to the signals – then laughing about it."

      Source : ca.style.yahoo.com

      Categorized in Science & Tech

      A team of Chinese scientists may have successfully developed a way to breed mangoes in space following a series of tests conducted during the Shenzhou-11 mission last year.

      Embryonic cells of the fruit, which were brought back from the 33-day space mission last November, have grown new tissue at a research lab in Hainan province. Project leader Peng Longrong recently unveiled healthy green buds of what can be called the world’s first “space mangoes,” China Daily reports.

      With the intention of cultivating a new variety of mango, the Chinese astronauts conducted experiments which involved a variety of breeding methods on mangoes.

      The fruits were  subjected to different conditions to influence them on how to adapt and develop “advantageous genetic traits.”

      After the successful cultivation of a new variety of mango from environmental mutation, the research team is now studying how this would affect the fruit. If proven beneficial, the team would further cultivate the breed that will be known as “space mangoes”.

      “Space mangoes are expected to be insect-resistant, of higher quality and provide more output,” said Peng told CCTV.

      Scientists have long been trying to develop plants that can eventually grow in space. A breakthrough would not only help provide food for the astronauts but also psychological benefits for long-term space flight.

      View image on Twitter

      In 2015, NASA astronauts were able to grow the first vegetables in space in the form of red romaine lettuces via its plant experiment “Veg-01” in the Veggie plant growth system on the International Space Station.

      Author :  Ryan General

      Source :nextshark.com

      Categorized in Science & Tech

      Canadian scientists have set a new world record by succeeding in teleporting a particle of light over a distance of 6km (3.7 miles) via fibre optics, which is a big step towards one day building a super-fast quantum internet.

      It's not really teleportation in the sense of the Star Trek transporter but researchers from the University of Calgary have succeeded in teleporting a photon (light particle) from one location to another on the city's fibre-optic cable infrastructure. In doing so, it will be the most impressive distance ever achieved for transferring a quantum state by teleportation.


      It means one day it will be possible to set up networks that are super secure – whereby communications cannot be eavesdropped on – and quantum computers can be connected to each other even when located across vast distances.

      The paper, entitled 'Quantum teleportation across a metropolitan fibre network' is published in the journal Nature Photonics.

      Quantum entanglement

      The teleportation was made possible due to quantum entanglement, a phenomenon so mysterious that even Einstein couldn't understand it. This is the process where seemingly counterintuitive matter instantly affects each each other, for example, the measurement of one particle on Earth instantly affecting another particle at the opposite end of the universe.

      "Being entangled means that the two photons that form an entangled pair have properties that are linked regardless of how far the two are separated," said Dr Wolfgang Tittel, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Calgary, who led the research.

      "When one of the photons was sent over to City Hall, it remained entangled with the photon that stayed at the University of Calgary."

      Quantum code is indeed possibleA pair of entangled photons Tony Melov / UNSW

      The next part of the experiment involved taking the photon at the University of Calgary and teleporting it to yet another location in the city along the fibre optics network. When it got there, the photon then teleported to join the other photon in the entangled pair, which was stationed at City Hall.

      Experiment made use of dark fibre

      The experiment was made possible due to a technology called dark fibre, which is a single optical cable that has no electronics or network equipment on the alignment. Dark fibre is typically network infrastructure that is not in use because there is already more than enough data capacity on the network.

      Because these fibre-optic cables are not needed, owners of the network infrastructure typically lease dark fibre to clients who use it to make privately-operated optical fibre networks.

      As changes in outdoor temperature cause transmission time of photons to lengthen and vary, the researchers found the teleportation only worked if they were able to get the photons to arrive and meet each other within 10 pico-seconds (one trillionth of a second).

      Fibre optics cableBy using quantum entanglement to teleport a light particle over fibre optics, the possibility of a super-fast, super secure quantum internet could be feasibleReuters

      Making super-fast quantum internet possible

      The demonstration of teleporting light particles is both a key way to demonstrate quantum mechanics, and the researchers see it as yet another step towards making quantum internet a reality.

      There is currently a great deal of interest in developing super-fast internet networks whereby data is stored in light particles rather than chips or bits by manipulating light into optical networking, however the technology is currently very complicated.

      Nevertheless, researchers from University of Bristol believe that an open source internet where light travels at the speed of light is possible and could open up the global network infrastructure industry.

      Author : Mary-Ann Russon

      Source : http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/scientists-leap-one-step-closer-future-internet-by-teleporting-light-across-6km-1583031

      Categorized in Science & Tech

      Around 100 million years ago, an alien-looking insect with a bizarre head and long thin legs likely crawled around on trees in what is now Burma.

      The insect is so strange that researchers say that it is not only a new species, but also belongs in its own new scientific order. Living in the time of the dinosaurs, the insect was tiny and wingless. Just two specimens of this new species exist, both of them preserved in Burmese amber.

      "The strangest thing about this insect is that the head looked so much like the way aliens are often portrayed," George Poinar, an emeritus professor of entomology at Oregon State University, said in a statement. "With its long neck, big eyes and strange oblong head, I thought it resembled E.T.”

      The critter from the past— it’s now extinct— represents one of about a million known species of insects. But since it is so distinctive, it has defined a new order of insects, boosting the number of insect orders up by one, according to Oregon State University. It likely ate things like mites and fungi, the university said, as it probably was omnivorous.

      “This insect has a number of features that just don’t match those of any other insect species that I know,” Poinar said in the statement. “I had never really seen anything like it. It appears to be unique in the insect world, and after considerable discussion we decided it had to take its place in a new order."

      Ultimately what makes it so strange are the insect’s triangular-shaped head (with the vertex as the neck) and alien-looking bowl-shaped eyes on the sides. It had neck glands that secreted what could have been a predator-repelling chemical.

      “When I first saw this fossil, I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Poinar said, in a video describing the discovery. “I thought it had to be an alien.”

      Source : https://www.yahoo.com/news/m/2f8b5ffe-e661-3e3b-b6f3-19edb70e4d48/scientist-discover.html

      Categorized in Science & Tech

      A RADICAL new theory claims that humans are the descendants of Martian life which came to Earth billions of years ago.

      Scientists believe life might have begin on Mars and then “contaminated” our own planet.

      An artist’s illustration of the igloo-style Mars ice home suggested by Elon Musk

      It’s believed life had a better chance of getting started on the now arid planet in ancient times because it used to have the right conditions for alien life – like water and a possible atmosphere.

      They think that an asteroid collision caused by space rocks in our solar system smashing into each other might have caused a chunk of life from Mars to land on Earth.

      Astronomer Caleb Sharf told Business Insider: “We can find pieces of Mars here on Earth and we suspect that there are pieces of Earth on Mars.

      “If that material can carry living organisms on it, it’s possible that we are Martian.” 

      Nasa reveals incredible formations formed by dry ice on Mars

      Our neighbouring planet still harbours plenty of secrets, but we know these 'sightings' probably aren't legit

      Our neighbouring planet still harbours plenty of secrets, but we know these 'sightings' probably aren't legit

      Artist's impression of the European Space Agency's ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter entering orbit

      Artist's impression of the European Space Agency's ExoMars 2016 Trace Gas Orbiter entering orbit.

      Author : MARGI MURPHY

      Source : https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/2686621/life-came-from-mars-and-was-carried-to-earth-on-an-asteroid-scientists-claim/

      Categorized in Science & Tech

      Today, if you lose your arm in an accident or on the battlefield, there's no way to get it back. You join the two million other amputees in America who have to rely on ineffective prosthetics or else just make do without. But geneticist Michael Levin at Tufts University is hopeful that his work will someday allow us to grow back our lost limbs.

      Levin, who is the subject of a recent Popular Science feature, manipulates the way electricity flows through cells to create six-legged frogs and other Frankensteinian creations. Such as this two-headed worm:

      The video above was posted by Adam Piore, author of Popular Science's feature about Levin as well as an upcoming book on bioengineering.

      For now, Levin's research is mostly limited to experiments in simple, "cold-blooded" creatures like these flatworms. If all goes well, he could move on to humans in a few years or decades. Here's what that might look like.

      Author: Sarah Fecht
      Source: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/these-two-headed-worms-could-help-scientists-regrow-lost-limbs/ar-BBxEwy5


      Categorized in Science & Tech
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