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Before long, playing poker with your computer may not be to your advantage and the days when you can bluff your way out of a tight spot may be numbered. Computers that can read minds, or at least faces, are in the works. A team of British and U.S. scientists say they are teaching computers to watch facial expressions, raised eyebrows, quizzical looks, nods of the heads and to calculate the underlying moods behind them.

Professor Peter Robinson of Cambridge University told Reuters, “The system we have developed allows a wide range of mental states to be identified just by pointing a video camera at someone.” Developed in collaboration with Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the program was on display in London in June. Visitors to the exhibit were asked to participate in a study to sharpen the technique.

One idea is to have your computer pick the right emotional moment to try to sell you something, and the auto in­dustry is said to be very interested in using the technology to improve road safety by telling if drivers are confused, bored or tired.

If you don’t want the camera watching, theoretically, you could turn it off. Big brother may not always be so ac­commodating though.



It may smell like rotten eggs but NASA scientists like the aroma. That putrid odor, they think, could mean alien life is possible on one of Jupiter’s icy moons. High in the Canadian arctic in an area which has been frozen solid for aeons, a strange glacier spring appears to be home to microbial life, and if life could exist there, scientists reason, it might also be able to live in the icy depths of space. That, at least is the possibility inspiring Canadian geologist Benoit Beau-champ and his colleagues.

The spot, one of the coldest and harshest on earth, said to be unlike any other place, is a sulphur coated spring on Ellesmere island in Borup Fiord Pass. Under investigation since the mid 1990s, it is home to several new forms of bacteria and a rare mineral known as vaterite.

According to a team from the university of Calgary was ready to begin a study in mid June with an eye toward proving whether life can survive in one of the most difficult possible environments—one very much like that expected to be found on Jupiter’s moon Europa and perhaps other remote places in the solar system.



Next time the subject of extra-sensory perception (ESP) comes up, those who have felt left out have a new option to consider—surgical implantation. A couple of avant garde experimenters in Arizona have found a way to make one sensitive to electromagnetic fields.

So-called body-modification artists Jesse Jarrell and Steve Haworth have figured out that implanting a bit of rare earth under the skin of a fingertip makes it possible to feel magnetism, and thus to be able to sense the presence of live electric wires (without being shocked), computer activity or even security devices in stores. Writer Quinn Norto­ni (,71087-0.html?tw=wn_index_1) reports that he tried it himself and, not­withstanding a sore finger, found that the technique worked and provided him with many new sensations in the pres­ence of EM fields. His relationship with his computer soon moved to a new level.

Such sensitivities have long been claimed by some people without surgical assistance. So-called earth-sensitives have even reported being able to pick up the magnetic disturbances caused by earthquakes. However, most apparent­ly do not enjoy the sensations involved, so the prospect of surgically implanted ESP appears unlikely to become a fad. At least until it feels better.

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