Monthly Archives: May 2012

Just Released: Cohesion Lost

Free New eBook for Next 3 Days!

Science Fiction Short Story Sale Ends June 1st

Avar-Tek Event 3: Cohesion Lost

eBook published May 2012
For Alexander Sevik, providing for his family is hard enough without losing grip on reality. His dreams are real. One night, he lives the entire life of a deckhand on a Spanish galleon. The next night, it’s life as an ancient Roman senator. Next, he is a cyborg on a space cruiser. When he wakes, he sometimes forgets who he is. His hands tingle for no reason, and the strange man who is following him talks about aliens. When he discovers the key to his dreams, he uncovers a national threat. And he has to choose between his own sanity or saving lives.
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Reader’s Reviews:
– “An wonderful futuristic look at the world where technology has pushed the limits of imagination but human nature remains the same.”
~ by Kay in an Amazon review
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– “The writing is the best, it kept me going, and I wanted to find out what happened next. It’s a must read! …well written, and the characters are well developed.”
~ by Health Nut in an Amazon review
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– “The story has mystery, conflict,and action, with the great plot twist that Justin Tyme does so well.”
~ by Shadowfeld in an Amazon review
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Visit the Smashwords for the free story. If you do download this story and like it, please drop by my website & sign up for more.

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DecNef – Learning Through Brain Mapping “Matrix” Style

** SPOILER ALERT **  If you have not read Cohesion Lost but plan to, then do not read this.  It contains information that will spoil the plot.

Researchers: Adult early visual areas are sufficiently plastic to cause visual perceptual learning.
Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

In the novel Cohesion Lost, Tenbu and his classmates use plexus beds to relive the lives of historic figures.  What a way to learn history.   Historical dates are no longer abstract.  When was the battle of Waterloo?

If you use plexus learning, you don’t have to memorize dates and events, you live them.  You don’t just read about historic icons, you meet them.  The plexus bed contains microscopic connectors that connect to your spinal cord and replace what you feel with what your character feels in an historical simulation. Let’s say you just finished the simulation of the Napoleonic Wars and someone asks you, when was the battle of Waterloo?  That’s easy.  It feels like last month.  You were there.

Can this work for real? We may never get that far, but recent research shows promise in the area of imprint learning (at Boston University and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan).  “The technique is called “Decoded Neurofeedback”, or “DecNef”, and it involves using decoded fMRI to induce brain activity patterns that match a known state” (Scott Young, MedGadget: “Matrix” Style Learning Through the Visual Cortex).

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** PLUG ALERT **

What will it be like future students with DecNef and plexus beds?

Read Cohesion Lost and find out.

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Press release from the National Science Foundation: Vision Scientists Demonstrate Innovative Learning Method

Journal article in Science: Perceptual Learning Incepted by Decoded fMRI Neurofeedback Without Stimulus Presentation

Cybernetics: Bionic Eyes

A close-up view of Retina Implant’s subretinal implant. It measures 3×3 mm across and 70 microns thick. It contains 1500 microelectrodes that replace light receptors lost in macular degeneration.

The bionic eye is an artificial device that gives site to the blind or enhanced sight to those who can see on their own — a cybernetic device.   Currently, bionic eyes for the blind are experimental with some success depending on when the patient was blinded and what cause the blindness. According to Wikipedia, there are at least 11 ongoing bionic eye projects:

In the video below Miikka Tertho, a blind man, sees images for first time (filmed by the University of Tuebingen/Retina Implant AG).  This is not Six Million Dollar Man stuff. (Remember that show?) This is not Lee Majors zooming in on the bad guy with a “boop-boop-boop-boop.”  This is a blind who can see because he has something like parts of a camcorder stuck in his eye.

Seeing verses Perceiving

Mike May (not the guy in the video above) was 3 years old when a chemical explosion blinded him.  In 2000 when he was 46 years old, he regained partial vision after a corneal transplantation stem cell procedure.  Although he can see, he has difficulty perceiving. “May still has no intuitive grasp of depth perception. As people walk away from him, he perceives them as literally shrinking in size, problems distinguishing male from female faces, and recognizing emotional expressions on unfamiliar faces”(Wikipedia, Article: Mike May (skier))

Why?

One theory is that the temporal visual cortex uses prior memory and experiences to make sense of shapes, colors and forms. During our first five years of life outside the womb, our brains are building a library or database of images associated with their context.  Over time, subtle cues are extracted from those images.  The visual cortex compares the image we see now to those library of cues.  But that part of the library of our brain is best stocked early when our brains are subtle.  For Mike May, this part of the library was closed, but he was able to stock the cues in the sound and touch section.  He developed very precise senses of hearing and touch.

The Problem with Adult Bionics

In the future when cybernetic replacements or enhancements are more common, it will also be necessary to fiddle with the mind to get the implants to work easily.  A method might be found that will allow the patient to restock his or her visual database quickly.  If not, then seeing will not equal perceiving.

Images and video courtesy of Retina Implant AG.

Reigniting a Passion for Science

NASA’s Space Power Facility (SPF)

I had the opportunity last Thursday to visit NASA’s Space Power Facility.

I won’t bore you with the stats. You can see them here. This blog is a personal reflection.

SPF Test Chamber: the world’s largest space environment simulation chamber

I was born in the 60’s and one of my earliest memories is the glow of the television on my dad’s face late one night. I snuck out of bed and dad was in the living room, nose near the tube and eyes aglow with anticipation. My curiosity was enflamed by my parents excitement, but a few sharp rebukes from my father sent me to bed, my curiosity unsatiated.

Reverberation Chamber – Door Installation

I think it was one of the Apollo missions, NASA’s lunar landings, maybe even the landing with Neil Armstrong’s “one giant leap for mankind.” Even if it wasn’t, that lit a spark that eventually drove me through college and brought me to a career in engineering and science fiction. It inspired stories like A Taste of Earth and Death Has No Shadow. OK, Star Trek, Star Wars, Space 1999 (yes, it’s dorky now, but wasn’t then), the space shuttle, and a thousand other things fueled that curiosity, but the spark was lit by NASA.

Reverberation Chamber and Shaker Table

That passion for space exploration fizzled recently, when the shuttle’s reign came to an end. I can understand why it did, but it has left a vacuum in American space leadership that makes me feel like we’ve dropped the ball.

Walking into the facility Thursday reignited that spark. It was huge. When we got there and passed through the security checkpoint, our guide told us to follow him by car to the SPF building. It would be a three mile drive. Three miles? The rest of the visit was likewise filled with astronomical numbers … pun intended. The pictures here don’t convey the scope of the project. It was something to be felt, to be lived. A reverberation room with a 40-foot or higher wall lined with speaker “horns” — some larger than feet across — that could generate enough air pressure to crush your organs.

The flame is lit again.

Reverberation Chamber – Horn Installation

Post Script: Yesterday, my wife and I took our older children to see the Avengers.  In the first scene, the one with the blue cube (the Tesseract), was filmed in the SPF Test Chamber.  Did you see the movie?  Do you recognize it?