By Agence France-Presse TOKYO -- A Japanese research team said Thursday it had created a technology that could eventually display on a computer screen what people have on their minds, such as dreams. Researchers at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories succeeded in processing and displaying images directly from the human brain, they said in a study unveiled ahead of publication in the US magazine Neuron. While the team for now has managed to reproduce only simple images from the brain, they said the technology could eventually be used to figure out dreams and other secrets inside people's minds. "It was the first time in the world that it was possible to visualise what people see directly from the brain activity," the private institute said in a statement. "By applying this technology, it may become possible to record and replay subjective images that people perceive like dreams." When people look at an object, the eye's retina recognises an image that is converted into electrical signals which go into the brain's visual cortex. The team, led by chief researcher Yukiyasu Kamitani, succeeded in catching the signals and then reconstructing what people see. In their experiment, the researchers showed people the six letters in the word "neuron" and then succeeded in reconstructing the letters on a computer screen by measuring their brain activity. The team said that it first figured out people's individual brain patterns by showing them some 400 different still images.
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By Anna Valmero Necessity is the mother of invention. For Antonio Mateo, he invented the "Direct Rainwater Catchment System Module" to help solve the impending water shortage in the country over the next five years, specifically potable water. Mateo said the lack of clean drinking water has been a problem for kids in remote areas who do not have the convenience to buy distilled water from purifying stations. He cited how kids from the mountains, like the recent death cases in Baler, die from drinking unsafe water. Most of the kids in the mountains do not even reach the age of five, he lamented. Having been involved in water system technology development for 20 years, he said it is imperative to invent a module that will allow Filipinos to access clean water resources, especially rainwater. The use of rainwater even at 50 percent utilization would allow savings and would secure surface and groundwater sources, said Mateo. Using the module, demand on fresh water needs supplied by utility companies in urban areas or by groundwater wells and streams in rural areas will be reduced. His family, for instance, uses rainwater for 80 percent of its total water supply for household use over five years now. “Rainwater harvesting is a method of collecting, storing and processing rainwater for human consumption and use,” said Mateo. It allows the provision of fresh water at or near the point of its use, such as the individual household, farm, industrial and commercial establishment. The concept is nothing new; rain harvesting has been used a long time ago, said Mateo. “Rainwater harvesting seeks to put rainwater to good use rather than be wasted through floods or natural runoff,” he said. He mentioned that the perennial rains in the Philippines can help supply water in many areas, thus benefiting people. Mateo said that rainwater passes 14 out of the 16 parameters of potable water. Rainwater just needs to address two factors -- reduction of acidity and purification from disease-causing microorganisms -- for it to be potable, Mateo said. According to Mateo, the rainwater becomes non-potable because when it falls on catchments such as roof, it usually washes adhering pollutants such as, dirt, soot, insect and animal manures -- which all goes into the rainwater storage tanks or cisterns causing microbiological contamination. Added to these are dissolved solids in the atmosphere that initially comes with the first rainfalls. To extend the use of rainwater for drinking, Mateo said the module can purify rainwater of sediments using different layers of ceramic filtration and remove, if not kill disease-causing microorganisms, such as E. Coli via a purifying chamber with non-pathogenic solution. In rural areas, the purifying chamber can be replaced with malunggay seeds, Mateo said. The seeds are disinfecting and cleansing agent. Through three stages of rainwater purification of the module, he said rainwater can be used for watering plants and irrigation, bathing and flushing toilets and finally drinking. Mateo said the rainwater harvesting industry will grow over the next five years. Currently, he is looking for suppliers who can mass-produce the module design. He built the prototype with P100,000 budget. Future plans for enhancement of the module include operation of the catchment’s roof by hydraulics or pneumatics, which can spread out when humidity changes as detected by sensors.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net Can used oil be recycled as fuel for vehicles? “Yes,” according to Teodorico Badua, the inventor of a so-called “fuel energy saving device.” This device, he says, transforms used oil and other combustible liquid waste into flammable gas that can be added to the engine fuel, which can translate to fuel savings of up to 30 percent. This La Union-based inventor says the device harnesses the energy from used oil by heating the combustible liquid waste into a gas generator. This process then generates fuel vapor that can be used for gasoline-based engines. The device has been tested to work with used cooking oil, engine oil and washing fuel, the Filipino inventor says. “The device promotes safe disposal of combustible liquid waste into the combustion chamber of the engine, which burns it as fuel,” says Badua. The device is vying for the Tuklas (Most Outstanding Invention) category along with other novel inventions. It will be on display at the National Inventors’ Week exhibit at the Philippine Trade and Training Center until November 21. Badua has been working with vehicle engines since 1962. Seeing the load of used oil disposed as waste and hearing stories about waste disposal problems and the irreversible environmental impact of used oil, Badua says he started exploring how waste products, especially used oil, can be disposed in an eco-friendly manner and if possible, harness it further as fuel. The idea for the invention came while he was working in a power plant years ago. A co-worker added gasoline into the engine but some of the oil was converted into vapor because of an engine malfunction they discovered later. Despite this malfunction, he notices that the machine run faster. “I was inspired to develop a machine that can do this for used engine oil,” says Badua. It took Badua two years to develop the device. It became a project he did after work or during weekends. He already has invested about P100,000 for the development of the device. He tested his invention on a 1994 vehicle and was able to see increased engine power, torque and speed, which allows for longer mileage in every liter of fuel consumed. The lubricity of the gas oil reduces friction and heat between pistons and cylinders that also pronged engine life, he adds. Benefits for the environment include reduction of hydrocarbon and carbon monoxide exhaust emission in the atmosphere, as well as promotion of oil recycling to protect water resources from contamination, he says. “From processing a liter of used oil, you get several grams of sediments, which is a big help in reducing unnecessary disposal of waste oil,” he adds. With his invention, Badua says Filipinos should also learn how to extract from their experiences valuable lessons that can be developed into solutions to problems. For Badua who finished a vocational course in diesel mechanics, inventing the fuel energy saving device shows that every Filipino can be an inventor.
By Alexander Villafania INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Science and Technology last week activated an online portal designed to promote commercially viable technologies from Filipino scientists and researches. The One-Stop-Information Shop of Technologies in the Philippines is an online database of over 280 technologies, inventions, and process improvements that can be used by small-to-medium scale businesses, manufacturing operators and other industries. The OSIST project cost P20 million and was funded through the e-Government fund of the Commission on Information and Communications Technology. It is currently operated through the Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research and Deveopment (PCIERD). In an interview, PCIERD Head of Technology Assessment Utilization and Transfer Albert Marino said the OSIST hopes to bring entrepreneurs to develop certain inventions and technologies to improve their own business, as well as generate business for the technology developers and inventors. While only 280 technologies are available, Mariño said about 50 others are being validated for commercial viability. These are also categorized according to industry, such as energy, food, agriculture, textile, information technology, health transportation and process. Each technology's information, as well as the contact of the developers, are included in the site, to allow businessmen and potential development partners to talk directly to the developers. Mariño said there are plans to transfer the website to the DOST's Technology Application and Promotion Institute. He said the DOST is planning a series of regional activities to promote the use of OSIST and also to inform technology developers to use the site to disseminate their own technologies.
MAURICE Malanes of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Northern Luzon Bureau talks to Victor Ayco, a Filipino chemical engineer and inventor, who is not worried about the current oil crisis. In fact, he sees this as an opportunity to explore alternative sources of fuel with the help of science. Malanes finds out that Ayco has found vital clues to creating a gas-saving product, thanks to Albert Einstein's theory of relativity. Excerpt:
A scientist and inventor, Ayco sees the crisis as an opportunity for the country to tap the inexhaustible potentials that science can offer in finding alternatives to fossil fuel. “Many seem to anticipate a bleak future because of the prospect that one day the world’s fossil fuel deposits will finally run dry,” says Ayco, 70. “But fossil fuel is not the only source of energy that can run engines of cars and other machines. There are other inexhaustible alternatives [to fossil fuel].” He based his radical optimism on what he regards as a vital clue from one of the geniuses of the 20th century -- Albert Einstein. That clue is the theory of relativity, or E=mc², where E is energy, m is mass, and c is the velocity of light. The Mandaluyong-based chemical engineer says Einstein’s theory helped him perfect his gas-saving product, which he demonstrated recently before Baguio City motorists. Essentially, Einstein’s relativity theory, says Ayco, states that “from matter we can produce energy.” His invention called “aero-nitro power injector” took 15 years of research and experiment. Patented on Dec. 11, 1985, the device has been marketed only recently through Energy Philippines Inc., a private firm, which Ayco co-owns with other partners. The inventor says his device “converts ordinary nitrogen (a noncombustible substance) in the atmosphere into combustible nitro-gas, and serves as gasoline and diesel additive in gaseous form for efficient engine combustion.” With efficient engine combustion, a vehicle can run more kilometers with less fuel and emits almost zero toxic pollutants.
By Agence France-Presse PARIS--The age-old fantasy of rendering objects invisible took a sharp step toward reality Sunday when scientists said they had created a material that can bend visible light in three dimensions. For now the vanishing act takes place on a nanoscale, measured in billionths of a meter. But there is no fundamental reason why the same principles cannot be scaled up one day to make invisibility cloaks big enough to hide a person, a tank or even a tanker, the scientists say. The groundbreaking experiments, led by Xiang Zhang at the University of California at Berkeley and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, were reported simultaneously in the British journal Nature and the US-based journal Science. Recent advances have created other so-called metamaterials, artificially engineered structures with optical properties that bend light in unnatural ways. But previous attempts had two severe limitations. One was that they only worked on the microwave range of the light spectrum, bending wavelengths much too long to be visible to the human eye. The second was that -- up to now -- it only worked on thin, two-dimensional systems. The new material, by contrast, produces what is known as the "negative refractive index" needed to make an invisibility cloak within a visible light spectrum and in three dimensions. Negative refraction -- or "left-handed" -- materials deflect light in a way which is contrary to the normal "right-handed" rules of electromagnetism. The light travels in the opposite direction that it normally would when passing from one material to another, such as from air through water or glass. One possible application would be the construction of special lenses for optical microscopes that could focus on things as tiny as molecules. But the holy grail of metamaterials has become the kind of invisibility shield that has fired human imagination from H.G. Wells' "Invisible Man" to the adventures of Harry Potter. The military, which funded the research, is especially keen to develop materials that could usher in an entire new generation of stealth technology. The metamaterial developed by Zhang and his colleagues has a multi-layered fishnet structure composed of alternating layers of silver and magnesium fluoride, which is transparent over an extremely wide range of light wavelengths. "In the case of invisibility cloaks or shields, the material would need to curve light waves completely around the object like a river flowing around a rock," Zhang said, according to the Sunday Times. "An observer looking at the cloaked object would then see light from behind it, making it seem to disappear," Zhang added.
By Izah Morales INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines – Can you imagine how many feathers are accumulated when chickens you eventually feast on are slaughtered? While watching the slaughter of chickens, Filipino scientist Menandro Acda was likely thinking of this when he realized the potential use of chicken feathers that are often considered waste in the poultry industry. Chicken feathers are often incinerated. But the burning can cause environmental problems, according to Acda “Millions of kilos of waste feathers are generated each year by commercial poultry processing plants resulting in serious solid waste problem,” added Acda who is a professor from the University of the Philippines Los Banos. Faced with the abovementioned environmental problem, Acda began his study, dubbed “Recycling chicken waste feathers for low-cost building material,” in 2007. He experimented on mixing cement with eight to ten sacks of waste feathers, which he collected from a food company, and consolidated them using a hydraulic press to create 10” x 10” panel boards. Designed for non-structural application, the panel board can be used for insulation in low-cost housing and warehouses, Acda said. The composite panel boards (feather fiber and cement) are decay-resistant, unlike commercial panel boards (wood fiber and cement) that are often susceptible to termites. He explained that the feather contains keratin, which the termites cannot digest. Acda said his study is currently looking into “optimizing” and increasing the strength of the composite panel board. Acda's study, which is geared towards helping the poultry industry and the construction industry by reducing wastes and creating new material, earned him a financial grant from Ford's Ecogrants Program last year. “Our participation does not end at financial support. We actively involve ourselves in ensuring the success of these worthy projects,” said Ford Group Philippines president Rick Baker. Here is my video interview with Dr. Acda.
By Alex Villafania INQUIRER.net WANT to keep those memories alive even when you're dead? Use the high-tech coffin that has an LCD display panel. The multimedia coffin was created by Filipino inventor Antonio Andes Sr. who thought of coming up with a more innovative method of paying respects to the recently deceased -- by playing videos, music and images on an LCD monitor attached to the open side of a casket. In an interview with INQUIRER.net, Andes said the LCD monitor is actually attached to a PC discreetly hidden near the casket. The videos, audio and photos can be provided by the family or friends of the deceased and can be rotated as a PowerPoint presentation. "We can do the editing for the family as per request, or they can give their own presentation and then we can play it on the PC," Andes said. In fact, even far-off relatives of the deceased can post their eulogies or messages via e-mail as the PC can be attached to the Internet, turning it into a virtual logbook of condolences. All it needs now is a web camera. The 42-year-old Andes is no first-timer when it comes to inventions. In the mid-1990s he outfitted a refrigerator with a cloth dryer. He observed the Filipino approach to fast-drying clothes, which is attaching these to the back of a refrigerator, which is constantly hot. Just last year, his first attempt to reinvent the casket was when he developed the reusable coffin. It is composed of two coffins, an inner wooden casket and an outer metal casket. Basically, the reusable casket is targeted at the poorer sector of the economy that would not normally be able to pay for a coffin costing P100, 000 to P500, 000. "The reusable casket is rented and we charge P8, 500 for a five-day wake. Then we can bury the dead in the inner casket while retaining the outer casket," Andes said. Not surprisingly, the multimedia casket is actually the reusable casket, only outfitted with an LCD monitor. Andes said it would cost an additional P5, 000 to use the reusable casket with the monitor -- photo and video editing included. "It may seem funny at first but this is one way for people to remember their dearly departed. Before, flowers and ribbons were sent to the wake but now, families and friends can send their condolences online instead," Andes aid. "Besides, it's for people who couldn't afford a coffin. Not only did they save, but they've also paid their last respects to their dead in a good way," he added.
THE DEPARTMENT of Science and Technology, together with the Mapua Institute of Technology (MIT) and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), is developing the country’s first electric vehicle (EV) for mass transportation. Leading the development of the EV is engineer Romeo Marave, who owns the rights to a prototype EV. He is being assisted by the DOST-Philippine Council for Industry and Energy Research Development (PCIERD), the MIT School of Mechanical Engineering and several PEZA-accredited private firms, including an organization of motor car battery companies and a group that makes motoring parts. In an interview, DOST-PCIERD Deputy Director Raul Sabularse said the EV project entered by the three agencies will focus more on improving the engine earlier developed by Marave. The first EV prototype was already tested by the MIT group. It has a payload of 1, 000 kilograms for a 70-kilometer run. Marave’s EV traveled the distance with an eight-hour charge at a cost of just P2.07 pesos per kilometer, or P144.90 for the entire 70-km trip. The project is also aimed at lowering the use of gasoline-powered vehicles in cities, villages and subdivisions. "We’re still working on the lower weight-to-power ratio of Marave’s vehicle. It also needs technical improvements before it can be commercially viable. We’re also looking into minimizing recharging time and building the car with much lighter materials," according to Sabularse, who also heads the DOST-PCIERD's alternative fuels project. Sabularse noted that while other car manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota have already tested their own electric-hybrid vehicles, the Philippine EV will not compete with these and will instead have a niche market of users in the Philippines. "We won’t be seeing any electric-powered jeepneys soon but some city-driving cars will be powered by electricity. Eventually, we’ll be working with power-charging stations for these types of vehicles," Sabularse said.