Our opinions are affected by what our eyes are focusing on in the same instant we make moral decisions. Researchers at Lund University and other institutions have managed to influence people’s responses to questions such as “is murder defensible?” by tracking their eye movements. When the participants had looked at a randomly pre-selected response long enough, they were asked for an immediate answer. Fifty-eight per cent chose that answer as their moral position.
The study shows that our moral decisions can be influenced by what we are looking at when we make the decision. Using a new experimental method, the researchers tracked participants’ eye movements and demanded an answer when their eye rested on a randomly pre-selected answer.
The researchers, from the Division of Cognitive Science at Lund University, University College London (UCL) and the University of California, Merced, studied in real time how people deliberate with themselves in difficult moral dilemmas. The participants had no idea that the researchers were carefully monitoring how their gaze moved in order to demand an answer at the right moment. The results showed that the responses were systematically influenced by what the eye saw at the moment an answer was demanded.
“In this study we have seen that timing has a strong influence on the moral choices we make. The processes that lead to a moral decision are reflected in our gaze. However, what our eyes rest on when a decision is taken also affects our choice,” explained Philip Pärnamets, cognitive scientist at Lund University and one of the authors of the study.
The study is the first to demonstrate a connection between gaze and moral choices, but it is based on previous studies which have shown that for simpler choices, such as choosing between two dishes on a menu, our eye movements say what we will eat for dinner before we have really decided.
“What is new is that we have demonstrated that if eye movements are tracked moment by moment, it is possible to track the person’s decision-making process and steer it in a pre-determined direction,” said Petter Johansson, a reader in cognitive science at Lund University.
The thought process needed to reach a moral position is thus interlinked with the process of viewing the world.
“Today, all sorts of sensors are built into mobile phones, and they can even track your eye movements,” said Daniel Richardson, director of the Eye Think Lab at UCL. “By documenting small changes in our behaviour, our mobiles could help us reach a decision in a way that has not been possible before.”
In the U.S., Clostridium difficile causes a quarter million hospitalizations and kills 14,000 people a year. These severe-diarrhea-causing bacteria resist treatment in many patients, and the rest of the time, the antibiotics kill off normal gut microbes that help keep pathologic species in check. Doctors have increasingly turned to a procedure called “fecal microbiotia transplantation” (FMT), which delivers fresh fecal material to help restore the normal balance of beneficial microbes.
These fecal transplants are about 90 percent successful, but they typically require invasive and uncomfortable colonoscopies or nasogastric tubes, which run from the nose down to the stomach. “Just getting the tube down is a problem,” Elizabeth Hohmann of Massachusetts General Hospitaltells NPR. And what if people gag and vomit? Would they inhale fecal matter? “That’s pretty scary,” she adds.
Now it looks like frozen poop pills may be just as effective, according to results from a small pilot study published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Previous work has shown that frozen material works just as well as the fresh stuff, plus it means donors can be recruited and screened whenever, rather than when a recipient is in dire need. A bank of frozen samples can be prescreened for health issues (such as hepatitis) to reduce the risks of transmitting new infections.
To investigate the safety of simple oral capsules, Hohmann, together with Ilan Youngster from Boston Children’s Hospital and colleagues, enrolled 20 patients, ages 11 to 89, who’ve had at least two to three episodes of C. difficile infection. Some have had to be hospitalized, some haven’t improve with traditional treatments. Stool samples were taken from healthy volunteers, then filtered, diluted, screened, and placed into capsules, which were stored at minus 80 degrees Celsius for four weeks.
The patients took 15 capsules a day for two consecutive days. About the size of a large vitamin, these 1.6-gram capsules are designed to open when they reach the small intestine. (Unfortunately, acid-resistant capsules are clear, but if you take it out of the freezer and swallow it really fast, the frost might help obscure the contents.)
“The use of capsules simplifies the procedure immensely, potentially making it accessible to a greater population,” Youngster says in a news release. The symptoms were completely cleared in 14 recruits after a single treatment, without any recurrences. It took about four days for the pills to work. The other six patients received a second treatment about a week after the first, and the symptoms were then resolved in five of them — though one patient’s infection did come back during the eight-week follow-up.
The overall success rate for the frozen capsules was 90 percent — making them just as safe and effective as traditional fecal transplant techniques. “It’s probably not the best experience of your life,” Youngster tells Science. “But it beats getting a tube stuck down your throat or a colonoscopy… or having C. diff.”
Humanity first set foot on the moon on July 20th, 1969. There is mission data, video, and photos of the event, but a startling number of people still subscribe to the conspiracy theory that we never went to the moon at all. They insist it was all done on a soundstage, and the proof is right there in the video. This claim has been debunked many times over the years, but now Nvidia is thumping the conspiracy theorists one more time in order to show off the power of its new Maxwell GPU.
Maxwell is Nvidia’s latest and greatest graphics architecture powering the blisteringly fast GTX 980 and GTX 970. One of the technologies Nvidia is particularly proud of is called Voxel Global Illumination (VXGI). It’s an advanced computation algorithm that allows the Maxwell GPU core to accurately render global illumination with indirect lighting. It is this technology that Nvidia used to build a complete mockup of the Apollo 11 landing site in the Unreal 4 game engine.
One of the photos conspiracy theorists point to as proof that man did not go to the moon is a rather famous image of Buzz Aldrin coming down the lunar lander ladder, which was taken by Neil Armstrong. Because Aldrin is on the shadowy side of the lander, the moon landing deniers claim he should not be illuminated as he appears to be. That means more than one light source (the sun), and thus it could not have been taken on the moon. Nvidia’s simulation is yet more evidence of just how wrong that claim is.
Most people have a general conception of light as a beam that hits an object and then bounces off at a certain angle, but that’s not how it works. Light is scattered in all directions, and can bounce off a few objects with high enough reflectivity. Nvidia had to generate realistic values for the reflectivity (or albedo) of all the element in its simulated moon landing site. The lunar soil, the rover, the space suits–everything. When all this was input and VXGI was set loose, the scene looked pretty good, but it wasn’t perfect. There wasn’t enough light on Aldrin.
Nvidia scoured the footage of that moment looking for another reflective object, and then they realized–it was Armstrong. Space suits have very high albedo, so Armstrong himself was acting like a mirror bouncing more light at Aldrin when he took the picture. The addition of this made the scene perfect. It’s a startlingly good match for the original and a testament to how well Maxwell can simulate light. Nvidia also showed how the starscape was blotted out in photos by the bright foreground light (another conspiracy theorist favorite).
Global illumination has been used in CGI for movies over the years, which is why a high-end film always looks more real than even the best video games. The difference being the movie is pre-rendered and a game is rendered as you play it. Maxwell makes it possible to generate indirect lighting in real time using a voxel map, or approximation of the scene. Even with the simplified voxel surfaces, the footage Nvidia is showing off looks amazing.
Earth is a jewel of the solar system, painted blue by the vast oceans that hold the majority of our planet’s water—or so we thought. Most of Earth’s water, according to a new study, may actually be locked in a reservoir 400 miles underground.
That Earth, for much of its history, has been covered by water isn’t much of surprise. But how so much water ended up on a planet that, at its birth, was boiling hot has puzzled scientists for decades. Previous theories had assumed that Earth had picked up its water when it collided violently with icy comets and asteroids. But an alternate hypothesis just received a boost courtesy of a new study published in Science: Earth’s water may have been here all along, oozing out gradually from as rock deep in the crust was pressed by the intense heat and pressure below the surface.
The idea of water trapped in solid rock isn’t as unlikely as it sounds. Minerals can trap molecules of water in their metals and metal oxides like a sponge. If the pressure gets high enough, the trapped water can get squeezed out.
Steven Jacobsen, the Northwestern University professor who led the study, found water in subterranean ringwoodite, a deep blue mineral chemically similar to peridot, a green mineral often used in jewelry. Until a sample turned up in 2008 in a diamond coughed up from a volcano, ringwoodite had only been found in meteorites. The ringwoodite came from the “transition zone” between the upper and lower mantle, about 400 miles below the Earth’s surface, and about 1.5% of its weight turned out to be water. If a lot of this water-heavy mineral existed underground, scientists reasoned, that might be enough to explain where Earth’s oceans came from.
So Jacobsen and his team went looking for dampness lurking deep underground by monitoring the seismic waves generated by earthquakes. Because the velocity of these waves changes depending on what kind of material they’re passing through—like, for example, if a mineral is wet or dry—measuring that speed can give geologists a map of what’s below the Earth’s surface.
Sure enough, they found signs of wet ringwoodite in the transition zone 700 kilometres [400 miles] down, which divides the upper and lower regions of the mantle. At that depth, the pressures and temperatures are just right to squeeze the water out of the ringwoodite. “It’s rock with water along the boundaries between the grains, almost as if they’re sweating,” says Jacobsen.
If all the ringwoodite in the transition zone is as damp as the samples that Jacobsen and his team detected, that layer would hold three times as much water as all of the Earth’s oceans combined, reducing their share from 96.5% of all known water to a relatively paltry 24.8%. In other words, the ringwoodite discovery could quadruple the amount of water found on Earth. A blue planet, indeed.
The rapid-fire rocket exchange between Israel and Hamas on Wednesday evening was so bright it could be seen from space.German astronaut Alexander Gerst tweeted two images on Wednesday that he took from more than 200 miles above the Earth as the International Space Station was flying over Israel and Gaza.
The rocket fire and explosions crisscrossing between the two areas appear to be visible in the photos. (Mashable reached out to NASA for further clarification on where the explosions are located in the images. We will update shortly.)
After more than a week of exchanging air strikes with Hamas, Israel invaded Gaza on July 17 in a massive ground offensive. Since then, the violence has continued to escalate, and more than 680 Palestinians have been killed.