Surf report: building (and destroying) brains, printing houses, and getting to know your introvert

I thought that it might be nice to share a few of the things that I find around the Internet while I’m being distracted from running and writing in the morning – things that I like, things that I feel like I should share with my readers and that I don’t really know if I could do justice for in just one post. Hence we have the Surf Report: a roundup of things I have to share with all of my wonderful readers.

I found this article via Digg. It’s a long one, but the upshot is this: Harry Markram thinks that within ten years, he can deliver a holographic simulation of a fully-functional human brain on a supercomputer. In fact, he made this claim four years ago at a TED Talk, which means that his timeline is only six years out. His research has gotten him serious attention and respect in the neuroscience community, having worked out a portion of a rat’s brain and applying it to some of the rat’s functions, as well as other areas. But if you build it, will it think?

That’s the big question, and Markram feels the only way to find out is to try and see – that’s a scientist for you. The European Commission has given him a billion Euro (yeah, that’s billion with a “B”) because they believe in his work. Oh, they’ll be able to use that to attack brain disorders and diseases. Count on a definitive answer to the cause of Alzheimer’s within twenty years. My idea is that there is no reason a single brain could be replicated, its entire network of connections mapped and catalogued. But can looking at that tell anyone who we are or why? And if you simulate that in a computer, would the model act anything like the data source, the brain that was mapped – physiologically, yeah, but like the person? Now that would be something.

The entire article is fascinating, with information on how some of the brain’s basic components interact and how little we actually know about it, but I understand if you don’t have time to read the whole thing; it’s tempting not to scan through it and move on.

So did you know that you can print yourself a house in less time than it takes to sign a mortgage? Professor Behrock Khoshnevis wants to use 3D printing technology to rebuild third-world slums and ultimately make housing more affordable, a dream that I wholeheartedly applaud. Best of all, the projected cost is 37.5% lower than traditional between materials and labor, it takes about 20 hours to build a house from start to finish, and now you can finally get that donut-shaped house Eddie Murphy was talking about in Beverly Hills Cop II without the Beverly Hills budget.

NASA wants to use this technology to build a moon colony; if you ask me, that’s smart because there’s no atmosphere to spread those nasty ultra fine particles around, so that’s not even an issue. Just build it with a Roomba.

I found this blog on Tumblr, where this fellow makes animated GIFs of beer bottles. He talks about some of his favorite craft beers, and happens to be a fan of IPAs, which puts him in a class above your average beer drinker. Cheers!

Finally, my wife shared this on Facebook yesterday, and I found it to be incredibly thoughtful. I know what I am, and so I have no illusions about what it’s like for those of the social persuasion to have to deal with me. I thought I would share this with all of you so you might understand how it works – in case you don’t – or maybe you’ll pass it on to someone who doesn’t get you, I don’t know. But things like this just beg to be shared, because I’m sorry to inform you that Andrew Carnegie was a douchebag and ruined life for a lot of individualistic people with his ideas and support of group work. Pardon my French.

Image credit: SchroJones @ DeviantArt

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