Daily Archives: November 24th, 2008

Martian Glaciers, Transhuman Hearing and Black Swans

INFRARED light can stimulate neurons in the inner ear as precisely as sound waves, a discovery that could lead to better cochlear implants for deaf people.

A healthy inner ear uses hair cells that respond to sound to stimulate neurons that send signals to the brain. But hair cells can be destroyed by disease or injury, or can contain defects at birth, leading to deafness. In such cases, cochlear implants can directly stimulate neurons.

The hearing provided by today’s implants is good enough to enable deaf children to develop speech skills that are remarkably similar to hearing children’s. Implant users still find it tough to appreciate music, communicate in a noisy environment and understand tonal languages like Mandarin, however. That’s because the implants use only 20 or so electrodes, a small number compared to the 3000-odd hair cells in a healthy ear.

Some of these advanced medical tech treatments have a lead time of a decade or more, but with the push for a Singularity of some kind, this could be cut in half or even shorter.

It would be nice to see this used for what is claimed.

Light opens up a world of sound for the deaf


Vast Martian glaciers of water ice under protective blankets of rocky debris persist today at much lower latitudes than any ice previously identified on Mars, says new research using ground-penetrating radar on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

“Altogether, these glaciers almost certainly represent the largest reservoir of water ice on Mars that’s not in the polar caps. Just one of the features we examined is three times larger than the city of Los Angeles, and up to one-half-mile thick, and there are many more,” said John W. Holt of The University of Texas at Austin’s Jackson School of Geosciences, lead author of a report on the radar observations in the Nov. 21 issue of the journal Science.

This is a pretty significant find, but I have to ask, “Is the water salt brine or fresh?”

Most of the findings of the Phoenix lander and the Rovers found evidence of whatever water there was, it was salty.

Maybe it doesn’t matter, any water is better than no water.

And I don’t think we’re going to get there anytime soon.

New Research:: Blankets of Soil May Hide Vast Martian Glaciers


The lesson of the black swan is that the world is governed not by ordinary and predictable events but by extraordinary and unpredictable ones. The asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs is an example of a black swan. The Internet is a good black swan, the crash of ’08 a bad one. Except for one or two eccentric cranks, no one saw it coming.

I remember when I went to get my hair cut in September. As he snipped away, my hairdresser told me his mutual fund had gone down, and he was so ticked off that he’d sold it and stuck his whole life savings in the bank. Poor guy, I thought smugly. The market will go back up and he’ll be sorry. Ha ha ha.

Another lesson of the black swan is that expertise is useless. No one has a clue why the markets have gone down so far, or whether they’ll go down more, or how long it will really take for the world to absorb China’s three-year backlog of refrigerators. You might as well ask the nearest cab driver. And if he tells you, “God only knows,” he’s giving you a more honest answer than the well-paid people in good suits who have devoted their careers to analyzing these matters. Yogi Berra was right when he said it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.

I would definitely say to this person that there were alot more than “a few cranks” who predicted the dire economic straits the world is currently experiencing.

But we human beings are hard-wired to try to make sense out of chaos, to wit, to make order to the Universe.

Some people prefer that higher beings such as God make predictable, preordained and orderly events happen, thus eliminating the chaos.

Others feel that free will is an illusion because our brains make decisions microseconds before we are aware of them.

These are defense mechanisms our brain uses to organise the chaos into recognisable structures, i.e., patterns.

Unless your brain is short-circuited like mine.

Sometimes viewing the chaos is better than an acid trip!

A black swan comes home to roost