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Posts Tagged ‘Bacteria running supercomputers

Research on brain or mind: How done? 

I attended a session of TEDx talk in Awkar (Lebanon).  The meeting started around 10 pm and ended at 1:30 am.  And we watched several TED talks on brain research and language.  The discussion and the friendly association inspired this article.

Since the Italian Galvani’s experiments on reactions of frog to electrical impulses in the 18th century, study on brain functions basically relied on binary (on/off) activities of neurons and nerves.

Currently, experiments are done using non-intrusive tools and techniques such as photo-voltaic (light) energy impulses.  The pores of particular axons in network of neurons and synapses in insects are activated by the light; the insect is thus programmed to behave as lights go on/off.

Research is focusing on selecting specialized network of neurons that can be activated and programmed so that particular functions of the brain are localized and controlled.  This strategy says: “let us investigate sets of neuron networks with definite functions.  As more networks are identified then, extrapolating procedures might shed better lights on how the brain function”.

It seems that this strategy in research is adopted frequently among teams of neuro-scientists.

Basically,  although the brain does not function as current computers do (advanced computers are being tested, working on living organisms such as bacteria that are programmed with artificial intelligence rules), the brain and nervous systems are activated in binary modes as computer by surges of energy impulses.  Hormones (chemical compounds) in body activate and deactivate neurons for particular functions in the brain and the body.

I like to suggest a complementary strategy for neuron research based on investigating pairs of hormones as a guiding program.

The idea is to mapping particular pairs of hormones, among the hundred of them, that are specialized in firing and cancelling out stimulus for activating certain tasks.

The next step is to construct a taxonomy for all the tasks and functions of the body and then regrouping the tasks that share the same network of neurons activated by particular pairs of hormones.

The set of tasks for a pair of hormones do not necessarily engage a direct function: they may be accessory and complementary to a function such as controlling, maintaining, decision, motor, feedback critics, actors, learning…

The variety of hormones correspond to different external senses, internal senses, and special nervous structures and molecular cells in the body and the brain.    The number of hormones is countable, but combinations of pairs of (on/off) hormones are vast. I suppose that a hormone might be playing a valid role in several tasks while its opposite hormones might be different for other sets of tasks.

I have this strong impression that research on animals and insects are not solely based on moral grounds or ethical standards.  The practical premises are that animals are far more “rational” in their “well-behaved” habits than mankind.  And thus, experiments on mostly male insects (even female insects have more complex behaviors and body instability) are more adequate to logical designs.

The variability (in types and number) in experimenting with particular animal species are vastly less systematic than experimenting with mankind:  For one thing, we are unable to communicate effectively with animal species and we have excuses to hide under the carpet our design shortcomings.

I think there is a high positive correlation between longevity in the animal kingdom and level of “intelligence”.

Species that live long must have a flexible nervous systems that rejuvenate, instead of the mostly early hard-wired nervous systems in short-lived species.

Consequently, the brains of long-lived species are constantly “shaking”, meaning cogitating and thinking when faced with new conditions and environments.

Mankind observed the short-lived species (with mostly hard-wired nervous systems) and applied control mechanisms on societies based on those “well-behaving” animals for control and organization models of communities of mankind.  

It is of no surprise that control mechanisms on human societies failed so far in the long-term:  Man is endowed with a brain shaking constantly and rejuvenating most of his nervous cells and submit but momentarily to control mechanism, long enough to subdue a community for many years.

Note:  You may read my article on bacteria running supercomputers on https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/bacteria-running-supercomputers-how/

Bacteria running supercomputers?

Apparently, you should not worry when using future computers that will be run by “smart” bacteria.

Bacteria are different from microbes because their life span is pretty short, they don’t occupy much space, and can develop new faculties to compete for nourishment. That last characteristic of bacteria of being excellent in the competition struggle is worrisome to me:  I have seen its effect among mankind and feel that it would be wiser for me to purchase a traditional and less performing computer.

How smart bacteria can develop to be? 

Laura Grabowski, at the university of Texas-Pan American of Edinburg (USA), is experimenting with how far bacteria can become intelligent.  She placed a colony of bacteria in an environment poor in food.  A hundred generations afterward (mind you that bacteria do not live long) somehow a single bacteria decided to descend to the lower box rich in food.  In an environment of plenty, a new colony of bacteria expanded greatly; with new faculties.

The smarter bacteria can learn to follow computer instructions such as direction to finding food and a weird instruction “Redo what you have done the latest time“.  I think that Robert Pennock of Michigan State University at Lansing (MSU) went overboard when he said: “Bacteria developed memory quicker than mankind.  Following instructions requires a form of intelligence capable of evaluating situations, realizing we had taken the wrong route, and then reconsidering available data” (again, recall that bacteria have short life span, and a million generations of bacteria would not need 100,000 years as mankind).  Ask a member of mankind to recall details of yesterday; he won’t remember much of interest:  the work is boring as usual and he had no desires what-so-ever to do anything, and thus, cannot remember worthwhile details.

For example, Ryo Taniuchi in the university of Tokyo has taught E. coli bacteria to successfully playing “Sudoku” of 9 columns and 9 lines with 81 types of bacteria.  The bacteria were using parallel calculus to filling all the cells simultaneously, a task impossible by man, using simple rules.

The limiting factor is that there is a limit for the quantity of ADN to be inserted in the bacteria genome.

Martyn Amos said: “Take a colony of ants: an individual ant is not useful, but if you get million ants to come together they are capable of very rich and very complex collective behaviors.”

Laura Grabowski stated: “these organisms are in an environment having to face precise obstacles that demand a form of memory to navigate in.  At least a short-term memory must have developed to performing orientation problems.  In general, researchers prefer to endow computer with complex intelligence; I opted for the alternative of reproducing artificial intelligence by developing faculties with simple organisms that had only the faculty of procreation.”

To demonstrate the feasibility of her alternative, Laura Grabowski taught “smarter” bacteria to moving toward light sources.  These bacteria were introduced into the robot Roomba (a vacuum cleaner) and followed an algorithm of instructions guiding bacteria toward lighted sources.

Smart bacteria are called Avidians in reference to the computer Avida of MSU were these organism live and auto-replicate according to computer instructions. “Avidians are wonderful evolving domestic animals” said Ben Kerr of University of Washington at Seattle.


adonis49

adonis49

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