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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Cognitive Computing - chips to supplement brains

Those days are not far behind.
Remember Johnny Mnemonic?
Well,  we seem to be trending in that direction, ...
Read on.

IBM pursues chips that behave like brains

SAN FRANCISCO — Computers, like humans, can learn. But when Google tries to fill in your search box based only on a few keystrokes, or your iPhone predicts words as you type a text message, it's only a narrow mimicry of what the human brain is capable.
The challenge in training a computer to behave like a human brain is technological and physiological, testing the limits of computer and brain science. But researchers from IBM Corp. say they've made a key step toward combining the two worlds.
The company announced Thursday that it has built two prototype chips that it says process data more like how humans digest information than the chips that now power PCs and supercomputers.
The chips represent a significant milestone in a six-year-long project that has involved 100 researchers and some $41 million in funding from the government's Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. That's the Pentagon arm that focuses on long-term research and previously brought the world the Internet. IBM has also committed an undisclosed amount of money.
The prototypes offer further evidence of the growing importance of "parallel processing," or computers doing multiple tasks simultaneously. That is important for rendering graphics and crunching large amounts of data.
The uses of the IBM chips so far are prosaic, such as steering a simulated car through a maze, or playing Pong. It may be a decade or longer before the chips make their way out of the lab and into actual products.
But what's important is not what the chips are doing, but how they're doing it, says Giulio Tononi, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who worked with IBM on the project.
The chips' ability to adapt to types of information that it wasn't specifically programmed to expect is a key feature.
"There's a lot of work to do still, but the most important thing is usually the first step," Tononi said in an interview. "And this is not one step, it's a few steps."
Technologists have long imagined computers that learn like humans. Your iPhone or Google's servers can be programmed to predict certain behavior based on past events. But the techniques being explored by IBM and other companies and university research labs around "cognitive computing" could lead to chips that are better able to adapt to unexpected information.
IBM's interest in the chips lies in their ability to potentially help process real-world signals such as temperature or sound or motion and make sense of them for computers.
IBM, which is based in Armonk, New York, is a leader in a movement to link physical infrastructure, such as power plants or traffic lights, and information technology, such as servers and software that help regulate their functions. Such projects can be made more efficient with tools to monitor the myriad analog signals present in those environments.
Dharmendra Modha, project leader for IBM Research, said the new chips have parts that behave like digital "neurons" and "synapses" that make them different than other chips. Each "core," or processing engine, has computing, communication and memory functions.
"You have to throw out virtually everything we know about how these chips are designed," he said. "The key, key, key difference really is the memory and the processor are very closely brought together. There's a massive, massive amount of parallelism."
The project is part of the same research that led to IBM's announcement in 2009 that it had simulated a cat's cerebral cortex, the thinking part of the brain, using a massive supercomputer. Using progressively bigger supercomputers, IBM had previously simulated 40 percent of a mouse's brain in 2006, a rat's full brain in 2007, and 1 percent of a human's cerebral cortex in 2009.
A computer with the power of the human brain is not yet near. But Modha said the latest development is an important step.
"It really changes the perspective from 'What if?' to 'What now?'" Modha said. "Today we proved it was possible. There have been many skeptics, and there will be more, but this completes in a certain sense our first round of innovation."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Chocolate, Ice, Salty Food, Lettuce, Tomatoes , Carrots - Evaulate your addictions

what your food cravings say about your health

Lettuce craving: Elsie Campbell found out that she had cancer when she realised she couldn't get enough lettuce
Lettuce craving: Elsie Campbell found out that she had cancer when she realised she couldn't get enough lettuce
Cheese on toast, a square of dark chocolate, or a spicy tikka masala — we all get cravings for particular foods.
But while these are often to do with your mood at that moment, a long-term craving could be more significant.  
The Mail this week reported the story of 59-year-old Elsie Campbell, whose breast cancer was detected after she developed an unusual appetite for salad.
The mother-of-two was eating four lettuces a day, prompting her husband Jim, a research scientist, to investigate.
He worked out that lettuce contains a natural chemical called sulforaphane, which can attack cancer cells and which breast cancer sufferers often lack.
He correctly guessed his wife’s addiction meant she was suffering from the disease. Jim has since set up question myhealth.com, providing information about other odd symptoms.
So, what could your craving be trying to  tell you?
A craving for Marmite could mean you are suffering from heart arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation
A craving for Marmite could mean you are suffering from heart arrhythmia or atrial fibrillation
Possible ailment: Heart arrhythmia, atrial fibrillation
Marmite is rich in B-vitamins, which are essential for breaking down carbohydrates for energy. B-vitamins also maintain nerves, skin and brain.
There are eight different types of B-vitamin and a deficiency of any one of them can result in a range of conditions, including heart palpitations, arrhythmia or fibrillation (an irregular heartbeat), chronic fatigue, irritability and poor concentration.
So love it or loathe it, a craving for Marmite could be your body’s way of trying to make up for a deficiency.
Possible ailment: Thyroid or adrenal gland problems
Shona Wilkinson, head nutritionist at The Nutri Centre, London, says: ‘Severe stress affects the adrenal glands.
‘If someone is very stressed, they stop producing the correct amounts of hormones such as adrenaline, cortisol and aldosterone. This can disrupt the salt balance in the body and explains why some people have salt cravings.’
It might also mean you have an iodine deficiency. This is linked to thyroid problems, says Jeannette Jackson, a nutritional biochemist.
An underactive thyroid can cause lethargy, constipation, weight gain and depression, while an overactive thyroid can cause weight loss, anxiety and irregular periods.
Cravings for ice could point to possible anaemia
Cravings for ice could point to possible anaemia
Possible ailment: Anaemia
A craving for ice may be linked to anaemia, which is when the body lacks red blood cells because it does not have enough iron to produce them.
The main symptom is a lack of energy. According to scientists at the Mayo Clinic in America, people crave ice as a way of numbing the tongue pain and inflammation that can be caused by anaemia.
Research has found ice tastes good to some people who are iron deficient, although why is not clear.
Possible ailment: Calcium deficiency
Dying for a can of something fizzy? There could be an unexpected reason. It may be due to craving calcium, says Shona Wilkinson.
‘Fizzy drinks leach calcium from the bones, so if the body needs calcium quickly, a fizzy drink is a quick way to get some released into the body.
‘This is very detrimental for bone health, however, so it’s much better to get your calcium from dark green leafy vegetables or low-fat dairy products.’
Possible ailment: Parkinson's, zinc deficiency
Zinc is important for your skin, as it promotes healing. It has also been linked to our sense of taste.
When zinc was given to rats deficient in the mineral, it increased the number of taste buds on the tongue.
So it’s thought that if you’re craving strong flavours such as curry, you may be deficient in zinc and as a result not have a good supply of fully functioning tastebuds.
Possible ailments for the apparent addiction to curry include Parkinson's and zinc deficiency
Possible ailments for the apparent addiction to curry include Parkinson's and zinc deficiency
Low zinc has also been linked to conditions including Parkinson’s. According to scientists at the National Institute of Health and Science on Ageing in Italy, this is because Parkinson’s disease has been linked to oxidative stress — damage to the body’s cells from the toxins found in everyday life.
Zinc is thought to protect against this damage, and so a lack of it may hamper the cells’ ability to deal with these poisons. Smoking has also been shown to deplete zinc, which may be why some smokers also crave intensely flavoured foods.
Possible ailment: depression
People who cut back on carbs are susceptible to mood swings, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston.
High-protein diets can lower levels of the feelgood hormone serotonin, but carbs raise them, helping you feel happy and combating low mood.
A desire to eat soil could point to low minerals in pregnancy or coeliac disease
A desire to eat soil could point to low minerals in pregnancy or coeliac disease
Possible ailment: Low minerals in pregnancy, Coeliac disease
A craving for soil or clay is part of a syndrome called pica, sometimes seen in pregnant women, explains dietitian Nigel Denby, of grub4life.co.uk.
‘If a pregnant woman has pica, it suggests she may need more of the minerals found in her particular craving. Iron tends to be the most craved mineral at this time. Iron, copper, magnesium and zinc are all found in soil, for example,’ he says.
Other research published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition has linked pica to undiagnosed coeliac disease (a malfunctioning gut) in children and it has also been linked to poor diet and heavy periods.
Possible ailment: Depression, stress, premenstrual tension
So why do you crave the sweet stuff when you’re working on a deadline or feeling down in the dumps?
Well, compounds found in chocolate called alkaloids may help to raise the levels of serotonin — the mood-boosting hormone.
Chocolate is also a source of magnesium and B-vitamins, which are used by the body in energy production, meaning it can help give us energy when we’re under pressure.
Chocolate can point to problems of depression, stress or premenstrual tension
Chocolate can point to problems of depression, stress or premenstrual tension
A small Swiss study in the Journal of Proteome Research found eating 40g of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduced levels of the stress hormone cortisol in people who’d been battling with pressures.
Craving chocolate may also be a sign of premenstrual tension. Some women also find themselves lacking in magnesium at this time, and chocolate is high in the mineral, says Shona Wilkinson.
Magnesium is vital for everything from your nerves to your bones and immune system.

Original article here

Saved by lettuce

Hubby spotted salad craving revealed cancer

LUCKY Elsie Campbell beat cancer — thanks to her addiction to LETTUCE.

She was baffled when she suddenly found herself scoffing up to four of them a day.
Her husband Jim, who is a forensic scientist, realised there must be a reason for the craving and suspected her body was seeking vital nutrients it needed.
Then to his horror he discovered that lettuce and other green veg contain the compound sulforaphane — and a lack of it can be associated with breast cancer.
He urged Elsie to see a doctor and her tests were positive. She DID have breast cancer. But thanks to the early diagnosis she recovered after an op.
Elsie, 59, said: "I'd always eaten lettuce in salads but suddenly I just couldn't get enough of it.


"I could eat three or four a day. I'd eat a whole iceberg lettuce at work and sit on the bus on the way home, thinking about eating more.
"I'd get home and cut one into chunks and eat it like a watermelon.
"I knew something wasn't quite right."
She went on: "Jim started investigating which nutrients and minerals were found in lettuce. He realised they were the same ones your body can be deprived of when it is fighting cancer.
"Not long afterwards, I discovered a small dimple on my breast and my doctor confirmed I had cancer."
She added: "Strangely, as soon as the lump was removed, the craving vanished. I haven't wanted to eat a lettuce leaf since."
Elsie's lettuce addiction was the condition known as Pica, where the body craves unusual and sometimes inedible things. It is usually pregnant women who have it.
Jim said at their Derby home: "As a scientist, I know that everything has a cause and effect.

Cured ... Elsie with hubby Jim
Cured ... Elsie with hubby Jim
"Elsie didn't start eating lettuce for no reason, so I did some research. "I discovered lettuce contains sulforaphane, which can attack cancer cells. I suggested that she visited the doctor.
"We were devastated when the doctors told us she had cancer but relieved that they managed to catch it so early.
"Her lettuce cravings were a warning sign."
Elsie added: "I was so lucky Jim spotted the signs when he did — my lettuce addiction probably saved my life."
Jim has now developed a website, questionmyhealth.com, so people can check if they have a nutrient deficiency that could be a sign of illness.

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