Curating the Internet: Science and technology digest for February 21, 2020

in hive-163521 •  last month  (edited)

First trial successful for high-precision robot-assisted surgery; A kit has been released for an open source rotary cell phone; Sia launches Skynet, a blockchain based peer to peer web hosting service; A PBS Space Time video discussing the relationship between quantum mechanics and consciousness; and a Steem essay discusses the use of virtual reality in medicine.

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First posted on my Steem blog: SteemIt, SteemPeak*, StemGeeks.


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  1. Robot-assisted high-precision surgery has passed its first test in humans - A high-precision surgical robot that can operate on women with breast cancer has successfully completed a safety trial. The milestone marks the first trial for supermicrosurgery, surgery on vessels that range in size from from 0.3 to 0.8 millimeters. Only a small number of surgeons are able to perform this type of surgery. In the trial, 20 women with lymphoma were split into two groups. In the control group, women received traditional manual surgery. In the second, the women were operated on by the robot, under control of a human surgeon. The robot is designed to be activated by foot pedals and controlled by joystick-like forceps that cancel out any tremors in the surgeon's hands. Overall, there were few differences between groups, but the women who were operated on by the robot did heal more quickly. Robotic surgery is not new, but the high price tag has made it impractical for most purposes. Because of the difficulty of the task, supermicrosurgery may be a niche where the robot is worth the cost. The article notes that the devices "need to be tested by many more surgeons on a lot more patients for us to be sure.".

  2. Rotary Cellphone - Justine Haupt created an open source rotary cell phone, and it's now available as a kit. Why? "Because in a finicky, annoying, touchscreen world of hyperconnected people using phones they have no control over or understanding of, I wanted something that would be entirely mine, personal, and absolutely tactile, while also giving me an excuse for not texting." And she received so many requests that it is now available as a kit. The device comes with a removable SMA antenna that can be augmented with a directional antenna, a sliding power switch, and it also has some number of "speed dial" buttons for frequently contacted numbers. -h/t OS news

  3. Sia Launches Skynet, Blockchain Peer-to-Peer Web Hosting - This seems to be a competitor with IPFS and TRON's Bittorrent File System. Apparently, users can upload files for free, and the data gets stored by a decentralized peer to peer architecture. How long 'til sites like steemit and steempeak migrate away from AWS for storage of images? The main drawback, however, appears to be that there is no guaranty of permanence. Here's a portal for uploading files, and here is a pastebin like text interface.

  4. Does Consciousness Influence Quantum Mechanics? - This video from PBS Space Time explores ideas about the relationship between Quantum Mechanics and consciousness. The video starts by reviewing the basics of quantum mechanical weirdness, including the ideas that things can be multiple places at once, communicate faster than light, or simultaneously be both particles and waves, and then uses the widely known "double-slit experiment" to illustrate the concepts of wave function and wave function collapse - which happens when a wave function is observed and measured. Exactly when is still unknown, an open question referred to as the Measurement Problem. According to John von Neumann and other classical quantum theorists, this collapse must happen at the "moment of conscious awareness of the results of an experiment." And this provides the basis for many people who theorize a connection between quantum physics and consciousness. This idea was extended by von Neumann's friend and colleague, Eugene Wigner, in 1961. Wigner added a step to the double-slit experiment where your friend runs the experiment, and then tells you the results. This means that the wave-function collapses differently for two different people, and Wigner concluded that "conscious experience itself must play a role in generating wave function collapse". Later, however, quantum theorists like Heisenberg and even Wigner shifted away from a causal view between the mind and the collapse of the wave function, with Heisenberg suggesting that the collapse must occur as a continuous function between the moment when the wave is measured and the moment when that measurement achieves constant awareness. Starting in the 1970s, however, authors began seizing on earlier results and publishing over-the-top claims in the realm of mysticism about how people could force the collapse of the wave-function to control reality and steer it in a desirable direction. So, in short, it seems that there is some sort of relationship between consciousness and the quantum realm, but not of the type that much popular mystical literature has claimed.

    -h/t RealClearScience Videos

  5. Steem @josevas217: Some Uses of Virtual Reality - Part One - In this post, the author explores some of the uses of virtual reality in the field of medicine. One example of how the technology is being put to use is for training in medical schools where it allows students to practice without the risk of harming a person, and it also enables learners to master skills like the using a variety of tools and robotics as well recognizing organs. Another place where VR is being used is in the planning of procedures by practicing surgeons. Finally, it is also in use by mental health professionals for the treatment of phobias or trauma. (A 10% beneficiary setting has been applied to this post for @josevas217.)

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Thank you very much @renlaps-lite

I'm honored that you would consider my publication within your promotion.
Upvote and resteem.

Later, I'll calmly review the other publications you mentioned.
Excellent weekend for you.

Regarding quantum mechanics, when interjecting our consciousness into physical reality, I note that hubris leaps to the fore. How facile is it to grasp that the perception of reality is the place where probability seems to collapse, and not the actual reality itself? Yet it seems that myriad brilliant folks have utterly failed to even contemplate that it might be entirely in their consciousness that the event they attempt to describe occurs.

For me, it is a certainty. Physics underlies all hard sciences, and across every field of research the laws of physics are consilient, and are able to be logically grasped from principle. Quantum mechanics isn't consilient with all other observations, and the explanations of quantum phenomena aren't logically based on reasonable principles. In questioning the basis for this extraordinary contradiction I am forced to consider our consciousness and limited ability to perceive reality.

Given the apparent dependence of quantum phenomena on our perception and consciousness of them, I conclude that it is more reasonable to hypothesize that such phenomena appear to violate consilience with well established physical observations due to our inability to perceive or conceive of them, rather than an inability to conform to physical reality.


Thanks for the reply!

Yet it seems that myriad brilliant folks have utterly failed to even contemplate that it might be entirely in their consciousness that the event they attempt to describe occurs.

The video did raise that possibility, but I left it out of the summary in an effort to limit the word count. ; -)

I conclude that it is more reasonable to hypothesize that such phenomena appear to violate consilience with well established physical observations due to our inability to perceive or conceive of them, rather than an inability to conform to physical reality.

That makes sense to me. Reminds me of Freeman Dyson's book, Infinite in All Directions. It's been years since I read it, but as I recall, he argued that no matter how much we learn about the universe at immense and infinitesimal scales, there will always be a larger or smaller scale that remains to be explained.