A Google for DNA

In 2005, next-generation sequencing began to change the field of genetics research. Obtaining a person’s entire genome became fast and relatively cheap. Databases of genetic information were growing by the terabyte, and doctors and researchers were in desperate need of a way to efficiently sift through the information for the cause of a particular disorder or for clues to how patients might respond to treatment.

Companies have sprung up over the past five years that are vying to produce the first DNA search engine. All of them have different tactics—some even have their own proprietary databases of genetic information—but most are working to link enough genetic databases so that users can quickly identify a huge variety of mutations. Most companies also craft search algorithms to supplement the genetic information with relevant biomedical literature. But as in the days of the early Web, before Google reigned supreme, a single company has yet to emerge as the clear winner.

Read more here.

DIY Brain Hacking: Electroceuticals & You

While 20th century medicine has relied on pharmaceuticals, it is likely the 21st century will leverage “electroceuticals.” By understanding our body’s electrical system and using tools like brain pacemakers and memory augmenting prosthetics to regulate the activity of neurons, we may repair faulty wiring in our brains and even rewire our minds. Today, with open-source hardware and software, you can build your own mind control gadgets at home. With a simple kit, anyone can hack a cockroach's brain and steer it around a room. During SXSW 2015, IEEE explored how these feats are accomplished and talked about the science behind brain hacking in this unconventional discussion featuring Joel Murphy (Open BCI), Tim Marzullo (Backyard Brains), Eliza Strickland (IEEE Spectrum) and Brent Williams (Kennesaw State University).

Mapping Christ the redeemer with drones

The 30-meter tall statue of Christ overlooking Rio de Janeiro from a nearby mountain was under construction for nine years before its opening in 1931. It took just hours to build the first detailed 3-D scan of the monument late last year, using more than 2,000 photos captured by a small drone that buzzed all around it with an ordinary digital camera. The statue’s digital double was unveiled last month, and is accurate to between two and five centimeters, enough to capture individual mosaic tiles.

The project was intended to help efforts to preserve the statue and to demonstrate how drones could lead to a dramatic increase in high-resolution 3-D replicas of buildings, terrain, and other objects. Being able to easily and frequently capture detailed 3-D imagery could have many uses, such as speeding up construction projects and helping Hollywood make better special effects, says Christoph Strecha, CEO and cofounder of Pix4D, the Swiss company that led the project. It collaborated with drone manufacturer Aeryon Labs and researchers at PUC University of Rio de Janeiro.

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Interview with DJ Patil, White House’s deputy chief technology officer for data policy

DJ Patil was recently named the White House’s deputy chief technology officer for data policy and chief data scientist, making him the first-ever national data scientist. DJ even coined the term “data scientist” back in 2008. He was most recently the vice president of product at RelateIQ, and was previously the head of data products and chief scientist at LinkedIn. In a phone call Monday, I spoke with DJ about open data, his transition from the private sector to government, and the Obama administration’s data-focused initiatives and transparency record. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Full-interview here.

Effectiveness of security warnings on computers analysed in fMRI study

Abstract: Research on security warnings consistently points to habituation as a key reason why users ignore security warnings. However, because habituation as a mental state is difficult to observe, previous research has examined habituation indirectly by observing its influence on security behaviors. This study addresses this gap by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to open the “black box” of the brain to observe habituation as it develops in response to security warnings. Our results show a dramatic drop in the visual processing centers of the brain after only the second exposure to a warning, with further decreases with subsequent exposures. To combat the problem of habituation, we designed a polymorphic warning that changes its appearance. We show in two separate experiments using fMRI and mouse cursor tracking that our polymorphic warning is substantially more resistant to habituation than conventional warnings. Together, our neurophysiological findings illustrate the considerable influence of human biology on users’ habituation to security warnings.

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How to know if there are too many people in a meeting

When setting up a meeting, the people you invite are just as important as what you need to get done. Including too many people — or too few — can be a waste of time for everyone involved. The following excerpt from the book Running Meetings will help you decide who should be in the room to make your meeting most effective.Take the time to methodically list the individuals in each of these categories to make sure you include the right people:

  • The key decision makers for the issues involved
  • The ones with information and knowledge about the topics under discussion
  • People who have a commitment to or a stake in the issues
  • Those who need to know about the information you have to report in order to do their jobs
  • Anyone who will be required to implement any decisions made

Some people use what’s known as the 8-18-1800 rule as a rough guideline:

  • If you have to solve a problem or make a decision, invite no more than 8 people. If you have more participants, you may receive so much conflicting input that it’s difficult to deal with the problem or make the decision at hand.
  • If you want to brainstorm, then you can go as high as 18 people.
  • If the purpose of the meeting is for you to provide updates, invite however many people need to receive the updates. However, if everyone attending the meeting will be providing updates, limit the number of participants to no more than 18.
  • If the purpose of the meeting is for you to rally the troops, go for 1,800 — or more!

from HBR.

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