Thursday, July 31, 2008

Congrats to Jed and Ben

Jed is now Dr. Jed. Yay!

Ben's paper has been published in Exp Brain Res.
Performance differences in visually and internally guided continuous manual tracking movements
Benjamin A. Philip, Yanchun Wu, John P. Donoghue and Jerome N. Sanes

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Weekend fun

Relax and enjoy this ditty from Flight of the Conchords.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Epic fail for fanboys

Ah, Microsoft. You seem to do nothing as people rip on your pretty new OS, and then you give us this gem. What did they do? Asked critics of Vista to try their "new" OS, called Mojave. They brought a camera and let the poor dolts fondle this highly classified project. Opinions were very favorable, and the critics were satisfied that this upcoming OS was going to correct the flaws in Vista. Oh, and Mojave? Yeah, doesn't exist. They were using Vista.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with Vista. It isn't great, it isn't horrible, it's just the 'next thing'. My advice is as follows: If you are using XP and happy, stick with it until you are convinced that you need the added security or Vista-only features (most of which can be performed in XP with available 3rd party programs). If you are someone that likes to upgrade to the latest, but have been put off by the talk, just install it already. Hell, dual boot your system until you are convinced it will work. You can purchase the retail DVD containing all versions (check what you order to see if it the version that also includes the 64-bit disk) of the OS, but without a license, for $20 online. Install it, mess with it for a couple weeks, and if you like it, go grab a copy of the upgrade version (use this to "install" over the version of Vista you already have installed, thus allowing you to use the "upgrade" license number). You can grab a copy with SP1 integrated, and the license number will work for 32 and 64-bit versions. But doesn't it cost a billion billion dollars? Close. On the high end, Ultimate upgrade can be found for $180 online, and $70 for Home at the low end.

So, don't fear the Vista.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Three for the TV

I was just watching the latest episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, and realized I haven't mentioned how much I fucking love that show. (Sorry, the swearing wears off on ya!) So, here are three geeky science show every adult should like:
1) Penn and Teller: Bullshit! - The comedic geniuses/masters of illusion take on topics ranging from animal rights to sleep (the latest episode, which was great). Airs on Showtime, or though the usual non-legit channels. Not always the most accurate, and definitely not balanced, though surprisingly fair when it comes to air time, P&T:B! pulls opinions from professionals of the related fields and asks the tough questions.
2) Mythbusters - Airs on the Discovery Channel, and safe for the kids. Special effects masters take on urban legends to test their plausibility. The experiments are not always final, the methods rarely conventional, but overall the best resource of basic cable for examining how to approach a question, from hypothesis formation, expectations, resources, and execution.
3) Dexter - This HBO original is told from the perspective of a serial killer that works for the police department investigating serial killers. Wha? Geeky? Psychologically geeky, my friend! First, you are forced to take the perspective of the typical villain, and you end up LIKING him. Second, the internal dialogue filled with blunted affect (an understatement) provides an interesting analysis of the mental workings of the protagonist.

Honorable mention: Master Blasters - Two teams of old time, salt of the Earth style engineers get a rocketry related task, generally pretty complicated, and compete for your entertainment. I don't know how, but it just works. It's everything that Smash Lab (see below) isn't, though a very similar style. You see them working out equations, sketching ideas, and the payoff is always impressive.

Two shows to avoid:
Brainiac - Yes, it has "brain" in the title. Yes, they perform 'experiments'. The show is the ADHD younger and more immature brother of Mythbusters. Unfortunately, this younger brother also works in marketing and not science, and experienced massive head trauma sometime before writing the experimental outlines.

Smash Lab - One shot big-boom experiments by good looking hosts don't make up for the total lack of any sophistication in experiment design. You get the feeling they're going entirely on intuition, and the results are usually unimpressive. Smash Lab - Try to cause the least damage to be inflicted on a car when hit by a train by attaching something to the train (car totaled at the end of the show). Master Blasters - Launch a Mini Cooper using two jet booster engines through a footbal upright 250 meters away and land in the Mini Cooper sized bullseye (both accomplish it using different designs, one lands 4 feet from the bullseye).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Shared stories page

Until I can figure out how to swap my starred for my shared tags in Google Reader, here is a link to my neuroscience/BCI/robotics related items. Note that I will remove papers from here when Super Paper Friday is posted, but you can easily find them by just searching for the "papers" tag.

Useful tools

Couple quick grabs here.

First, Medgadget mentioned a front end to PubMed that looks interesting called Ologeez (as in plural for the suffix "-ology" - those Stanford kids are clever). They basically apply the hive mind/social bookmarking/Digg/aggregator schemes that are all the rage right now to rate, recommend, and tag papers. I'll be messing with that more in a month or so, but it looks like a very beefed up version of CiteULike, which is kinda "Meh". Anyone have experience with Ologeez?

On the topic of PubMed, the is an iPhone App called PubGet which allows quick, on-the-go searching. It's actually just a mobile version of the PubGet site, but I didn't know PubGet existed and this brought my attention to it. It offers direct display of the linked PDFs, and is basically everything PubMed should be in a much more compact interface, but remember that you will have to be on your campus network to actually view full articles (or connected via VPN). I did a few quick searches and it was surprisingly good. I haven't tested whether it works at Brown (or any institutions not signed up through the site, which appears to total 7), but when I am back on campus I will test it out and report back.

Next, Microsoft's Live Mesh is now open to the public, at least as of right now there are spots, and it looks very very cool IMO. They did an incredibly crappy job of advertising it, but basically it is the same thing as Apple's MobileMe, but with a respectable history of actually working (neener neener neener). It takes the features of FolderShare, which I absolutely love, adds 5GB of online storage, public doc sharing, and remote access (in IE only for remote access) across any number of PCs, Macs, and mobile devices. I have an account, but haven't had time to set it up, so again, I'll report back when I do. Chances are that this will not remain free once released, but I would expect it to be bundled with every MS app purchase, and with so much competition in this particular market, I expect it to be cheap on its own (I'm thinking $40/year, if they don't have some type of tiered service where another $10 gets you 25GB and music streaming, or some such tactic).

Next up, two quick Windows apps. I have been on a hunt for the perfect launcher to help me declutter. If you want an OS X rip off with more functionality than Apple allows, RocketDock looks like the way to go. Low memory footprint, smooth, customizable. BUT, inefficient for my needs. I have really been liking SideSlide, which creates a little work area with different hide-able panes. Oh yeah, and they're both free.

If you deal with constant file operations, like renaming, selective copying, etc then you know that Explorer is limited. Xplorer2 is like Windows Explorer on steroids (free and pay-for versions). Think a million and one keyboard shortcuts, multipaned interface, saved layouts, and you've begun to scratch the surface.

Vista, for some ungodly reason, finds that copying files it tough. Part of this has to do with a bug that neither antivirus makers or Microsoft want to acknowledge, but you can avoid it by using TeraCopy. It basically copies. Yeah, you'd think a modern OS could accomplish that. Also, it will integrate into the shell, so you can just use it instead of the built in copying technique, which apparently requires a delicate combination of black magic, luck and celestial alignment for proper operation. Of course, it does do a good deal more, like batch jobs, schedules, and resumable/selectable jobs, too.

TrueCrypt is now on version 6. Major change? You can now boot into a completely separate, fake account which appears to be the primary account, hiding all evidence of the real partition. Good for when you are planning on leaving or entering good ole xenophobic USA. Get ready for SfN folks!

And lastly, a quick tip. If you have virtual stacks and stacks of audiobooks, but can't get them to show up in iTunes as, well, Audiobooks, the solution is simple. iTunes only recognizes .m4b files as audiobooks. That's the way Steve wants it, and you should want it like that, too. Really? No, not really. I'm being sarcastic. To convert those lovely gems, I like Easy CD-DA Audio Extractor, which converts every type of audio to every other type. I haven't looked around lately, but might, since the copy protection/licensing scheme keeps getting worse and worse with each version, bogging down the whole damn program. But, if you have a preferred program, go ahead and post it. Anyhow, re-encode those novels at 64kbps/mono and save yourself mucho space. You might be tempted to merge the files then, but don't. You'll have to put up with several files for each book due to a long-standing bug that Apple hasn't fully corrected that causes larger books to crash iPods and iTunes. You can use something like ReNamer to rename the files something convenient in the meantime, or TagScanner - my favorite IDv2 tagger - to tag and rename them. TagScanner is nice because it will add every type of tag to avoid situation where a program or device will first try to read IDv1 tags first or doesn't support IDv2 tags

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I want to swap my starred and shared items in Google reader (that way it's still one click to mark a story for the tech site and DNI), but I see no possible way to do it. I was able to move all the items in Shared to a temp tag using the privacy settings, but I can't figure out a way to get the starred items to do the same thing or unstar and mark Shared.

Any ideas?
(I also tried sharing the starred items and subscribing to that page, but that didn't work.)

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Under construction - kinda...

I'm adding a list of the 10 most recent items I have been tagging for the site but haven't had time to post about. I just want to get rid of the things I marked for my general interest, and then I will open the feed to everyone.

In the meantime, enjoy these fun energy drinks from Energyfiend! I'm partial to Stewies's Mind Erase Serum.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I broke down

... and for an iPhone :D

It is a wonderful little gadget, and one of those few items that make me take note because I know I will be looking back at the time before I got it, wondering how I was able to operate. If you're on the fence, just go get one. I've already hit the impassible Apple iWall - that point where I wish there were advanced options for all the settings. Everything is either too simple or, like jailbreaking, too iffy. Guess I'll have to actually simply use the damn thing.

I know I've been saying, "Updates coming soon!" but I swear they are! Oooo... I woinder if Blogger and Google Reader work on it... ~o.O~

(My background is above)

Friday, July 11, 2008


There, now I feel included. I mentioned it (going to get one, but not going to camp out). It goes on sale in 8 minutes here in the US.

Fun items I just grabbed off Gizmodo... Radiohead video shot with lasers, not cameras, and a Battlestar Galactica toaster. Toasts Cylon images into bread... Virgin Mary next? Oh, wait, someone thought of that! Does it land with the butter side down? If you believe in miracles, then no. But if you're a Mythbuster...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Cortical map desktop images released!

Looks like the interweb deities are smiling on us. As far as I can tell, I can post these without fear of losing my sweet, sweet grad student paycheck to the copyright cops.

I uploaded a new archive, though, which includes a text file that gives attribution to the authors and journal just in case the url gets passed around and people don't get it from here. No password needed.

Here it is:


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Wallpaper maps uh-huh

An awesome awesome awesome paper in PLoS Biology that has been getting media attention lately made a valiant attempt to map the brain. Yeah, the whole thing (okay, just cortex). Using Diffuse Spectrum MRI, the researchers constructed an ROI-based network of nodes, between which normalized strength measurements were calculated. No, I'm not sure how they did it exactly (I've only had time to skim the paper), nor could I find what task the people were asked to perform. They may have just asked them to lie there and taken any spontaneous activation, but that would be horribly uncontrolled.

The results point to distinct hubs:
"Based on their aggregated ranking scores across six network measures (Table 1), we identified eight anatomical subregions as members of the structural core. These are the posterior cingulate cortex, the precuneus, the cuneus, the paracentral lobule, the isthmus of the cingulate, the banks of the superior temporal sulcus, and the inferior and superior parietal cortex, all of them in both hemispheres."
Check out the paper. (Free to everyone)

I like it so much I made a new desktop background from the images (thumbnails above). Three monitors of cortical map glory!

I have not contacted the authors to see if it is okay for me to post the full size images, but will as soon as I post this. The paper is Creative Commons with no permissions needed, but I like to play it safe.

The zip containing the images is hosted here, but I've passworded it until I get the go ahead from Hagmann et al. And the real images at full size are much much nicer. Remeber that these are probably larger than you need (5120x1200 = 2x 20" 4:3 monitors + 1x 24" 16:9 monitor), so scale and crop accordingly.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Neural Interfaces Conference webcast

Brain Waves pointed out that the lectures from last month's Neural Interfaces Conference in Ohio are on the site now (in streaming form). Neat-o.

For those of you that missed it, and I assume that's 99.9% of you, Coast to Coast AM had Michael Gazzaniga a couple nights ago. I love the show, which covers all sorts of zany topics, and listening to a real scientist trying to field questions about UFOs and angels was pretty funny. The usual cast consist of 'researchers' trying to promote their books on how consciousness can influence shadow people and the Illluminati, or other such goofiness, so the audience is pretty interesting to say the least. Hey, you can find better programming at 1-5am?