SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Psychology in virtual world
Deepak Bagai
Humankind has made use of mental state altering social rituals and behaviours since stone-age times. This was actually "Psychotechnology, with no visible technology, and was prevalent in all societies irrespective of caste, colour, creed, race and sex.

Beware of old stem cells
The scientific communityís excitement about the potential of stem cells for curing different diseases is being moderately tempered by new studies that highlight potential dangers.

Prof Yash Pal

Prof Yash Pal

THIS UNIVERSE
PROF YASH PAL
Q Why are some objects transparent and others opaque?

New Products and Discoveries

  • New mammals found

  • Influence of dark matter

  • Magnets in heart treatment

  • Robot assists in liver transplant

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Psychology in virtual world
Deepak Bagai

Humankind has made use of mental state altering social rituals and behaviours since stone-age times. This was actually "Psychotechnology, with no visible technology, and was prevalent in all societies irrespective of caste, colour, creed, race and sex.

Psychotechnology has emerged as a pivotal branch, in the area of electronic environment and cyberspace. The development of cyberspace is not an accident. As per "Fink" it is a psychological location in time and space. It is a milestone in evolution, manifested through adaptation psychological need, and social compulsions.

The experience of human beings in the virtual world has paved the way for this new branch of psychology. Psychotechnology deals with the effect of Internet, mobile phones, computers, satellite and other electronics media on the basic existence of human beings. The truth is that the basic nature of our culture and psyche is being influenced by technology.

Psychotechnology is the effect of technology on the way we think and feel about others and ourselves. It has become an integral part of our daily life. Fink has depicted, psychotechnology as an intimate part of how we define life in an electronic age.

Today, the outside world reaches us via screen, instead of printed image and is in the form of expressions of consciousness based on language, which is actually an extension of human brain. Thus, it can be said that "Psychotechnology" is a technology, which extends the "emotional" power of the brain in the same way as physical technologies extend the body activities and power.

Television, is a collective, global psychotechnology, whereas Internet is private, and individual.

"Psychotechnology" is both a science and technology. It is a "science" because it explores the interface between the consciousness and real world. It is a "technology" as it uses the mental state induction and relaxation techniques.

The growth of psychotechnology is dependent on the way it satisfies real world needs. Need of the hour is to identify, already existing state-altering rituals, processes, and techniques satisfying individual and social needs. The results can be quantified and then the effect of technology in enhancing the state altering process can be observed.

The social needs are ever increasing and changing, many of them can be addressed using new technologies, if the application areas are creatively observed and monitored.

The lowest level, need of the mankind, is its basic survival. The skills, needed to achieve three basic amenities of food, clothing and shelter, have got a major boost with the advancement of technology. Creativity, productivity and decision-making skills have also grown with these advancements.

Increased "intuition" through technology, is actually psychotechnology. The most important, survival application, of psy-tech is the sale of electronic products, which help in relieving stress.

The use of light, sound and magnet in control of chronic pain, is already known. Advancement of relaxation and imagery techniques and devices, for psychoneuroimmunological control of body processes, will give a further filip to psych-tech applications in medicine.

Psychotechnology has been used for sexual purposes since human evolution. Champagne dinner, accompanied by dim light and soft music produces an inductive effect on body and mind, paving the way for a particular behaviour. Music instruments play the role of psytech devices to motivate dancing and singing, thereby increasing sociability, leading to specific emotions.

Psychotechnology has a bright future in the field of sports. Electronic gadgets (Psytech devices) are being used by trainers to improve skills of sports persons. They also find application in the area of psychotherapy. The use of psychotechnology, for induction of spiritual meditation, is well known. A new variety of meditation device will become available shortly. This can benefit the society as a whole. The development, of low-cost biofeedback devices is other important area of psychtech.

The future for psychotechnology appears certainly bright. Our culture has realised the importance and value of "conscious" experience. As pointed out earlier, "television" is a collective global psychotechnology, whereas "internet and computer" is private connective psychotechnology.

Educational institutes need to make access to these technologies mandatory. This will help in correcting attention deficit disorder (ADD) and hyperactivity in students. Connective intelligence enables information exchange and thus boosts business and social practices. Video games act as a "neuro-sport".

The writer is Asst. Professor, Dept. of Electronics, Punjab Engg. College, Chandigarh.


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Beware of old stem cells

The scientific communityís excitement about the potential of stem cells for curing different diseases is being moderately tempered by new studies that highlight potential dangers.

The studies, published in New Scientist magazine last week, show that even stem cells taken from adults can turn cancerous if they are allowed to multiply for too long outside the body.

Researchers have long know that there is a cancer risk with stem cells extracted from very early embryos. Until they change into more specialised tissue, they can form aggressive cancers called teratomas when injected into animals.

It has been widely assumed until now that adult stem cells, such as those taken from bone marrow, do not form cancers. However, the new studies suggest that adult stem cells are safe only if the number of times they are allowed to divide outside the body is limited, according to the magazine report.

Treatments with bone-marrow stem cells that are already being tested in people, for instance for treating damaged hearts, should be safe because the cells are only briefly grown outside the body.

"In normal conditions in clinical applications we think the cells are pretty safe, but we must be careful," said Antonio Bernad, head of a team at the Autonomous University of Madrid in Spain. "The key is not to grow them for too long," he added. ó Prensa Latina


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THIS UNIVERSE
PROF YASH PAL

Q Why are some objects transparent and others opaque?

A Normally, when we talk of objects being transparent or opaque, we describe whether or not visible light can pass through them without too much attenuation. What is transparent in that narrow band of frequencies we call the visible region of the spectrum might be opaque at other frequencies. For example, our atmosphere is transparent to visible light and radio waves but it is opaque at a rather large band of wavelengths in the infrared region, and to ultraviolet, x-rays and gamma rays.

Transparency depends on the fact that the medium has no energy levels that could be excited by the photons of the light in question. An interesting case much in the news today is that of ozone. Ozone consists of molecules made of three atoms of oxygen.

The ozone molecule has just the right energy levels to absorb lower ultraviolet radiation, and therefore protects us from its harmful effects. A small amount of ozone in the upper atmosphere can do what a large amount of air below cannot.

The same ultraviolet cannot find an energy level in nitrogen or oxygen of air that would resonantly absorb it and stop it from coming down to ground level; it can scatter its way down to the earth. This is the reason we are so worried about ozone depletion.

Take another example. Long-wave radio works because the ionosphere does not allow such waves to escape out into space, but reflects them back. Short wave or television signals pass through the ionosphere almost unhindered. Therefore, we need satellites high up in space to retransmit these signals back to earth to provide global television and shortwave radio.

Transparency will result if there are few energy levels in the medium that can help in absorbing the signal. This is true of glass in the optical region of the spectrum.

The same glass is not so transparent in the infrared. That is why in summer a closed car sitting out in the sun becomes so hot inside.

When you come back after some shopping and open the door of the car it feels like an oven. The heat radiation inside has a hard time getting out through the glass widows and windshields.

The incoming energy gets shifted to wavelengths that get imprisoned by the very same windows and windshield that are optically transparent. The much talked of the possibility of global warming, resulting from increasing concentration of carbon dioxide, is a similar effect.

Q Hindus, while doing parikrama (going around) of temples, do it in clockwise direction while the earth rotates in anticlockwise direction around its axis. Why are these opposite?

A I doubt if during its formation the earth cared what the Hindus were going to do four and a half billion years later. I also doubt whether it could imagine that there would be creatures that would attach special significance to going around what they would call a temple. Leaving this entire argument aside your statement about the direction of earthís rotation is biased. It is correct only when you are looking north.

But the south has an equal right. If you look southward you will find that the direction of rotation of the earth is clockwise!
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New Products and Discoveries

New mammals found

After 21 years without a new kind of monkey being reported in Africa, two research teams working independently in different mountain ranges have described the same novel species. And other researchers, after poking through meat for sale in Southeast Asia, report a rodent that they say justifies a new family among mammals, the first in 31 years.

The monkey species, now called the highland mangabey or Lophocebus kipunji, has turned up at locations in southern Tanzania 370 kilometers apart. One discovery came from scientistsí curiosity about stories around Mount Rungwe of an elusive monkey. In December 2003, Tim Davenport of Mbeya, Tanzania, who works for the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, and his team got a good-enough look to recognise it as a new species.

The other new species announced this month, an unusual rodent, was reported by a team surveying biodiversity in the forests of Khammouan province in the Lao Peopleís Democratic Republic. The Wildlife Conservation Society-sponsored survey included routine trips through village food markets. Starting in 1996, Robert J. Timmins and others occasionally bought what the local people call the kha-nyou. Dark fur covers a somewhat ratlike body about 25 centimeters long with a furry tail.

Influence of dark matter

Imagine trying to figure out whatís happening in a film from just a few scattered frames near the end. Now, letís make it even more challenging: The star of the movie is invisible as you watch the rest of the characters going about their business. Thatís what astronomers are up against in their quest to understand the cosmos.

The structures of the universe evolve so slowly from the human point of view that they appear as still images. To make matters worse, astronomers in the 1970s began to realise that most of the material in the universe is unseen. They called it dark matter. Just as blowing leaves suggest the presence of wind, the motions of visible matter such as stars and galaxies betray the gravitational pull of dark matter.

Without dark matter, the universe would look totally different. Vast clouds of dark matter draw in gas from their surroundings, concentrating it into galaxies containing billions of stars. Without galaxies, there would be none of the cosmosí visible structures ó no stars, no planets, and no people wondering what itís all about.

Magnets in heart treatment

Doctors in Minneapolis are now able to use powerful magnets to precisely align small catheters so they can treat erratically beating hearts.

Cardiac arrhythmia is a change in the normal sequence of electrical impulses in the heart, causing abnormal heart rhythms. As many as 2.2 million Americans are living with a trial fibrillation, one type of rhythm problem, according to the American Heart Association.

During the procedure, called Stereotaxis, catheters are threaded through the heart and surrounding blood vessels. They are guided precisely by remotely-controlled magnets outside the body. Once in place they can treat the irregular rhythms by disrupting the abnormal electrical signals.

"Stereotaxis offers us the ability to guide and place a catheter anywhere in the heart or surrounding vessels, including incredibly difficult, or previously inaccessible, locations," said Dr. William Katsiyiannis, a cardiologist with the Minneapolis Heart Institute at Abbott Northwestern. "This technology has the potential to change how we treat patients who require interventional cardiac procedures."

Robot assists in liver transplant

British doctors at Guyís Hospital in London have used a robot to assist in a successful live kidney transplant, Sky News reported Wednesday.

The robot, one of only two da Vinci robots in Britain, was directed by a surgeon at a special console to carry out precise movements inside Pauline Payneís body through tiny incisions. Human surgeons then took over and implanted the kidney into Payneís ill fiance, Raymond Jackson.

The da Vinci had been previously used to remove diseased organs and perform simple reconstructive surgery, but the kidney transplant marked the first time it was used for a procedure as critical and difficult as a live organ transplant. ó UPI
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