Neverwinter: 24-Hour Child’s Play Marathon August 13th

Child’s Play is an amazing charity that “seeks to improve the lives of children in hospitals around the world through the kindness and generosity of the video game industry and the power of play”. In 2012, they raised over $5 million toward a cause that makes a real difference for kids batting against ailments in over 70 hospitals worldwide.

Tomorrow, Neverwinter and PWI will be offering a 24-hour stream, during which players can donate and financially support Child’s Play.

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24-Hour Neverwinter Child’s Play Marathon!

Adventurers, your Neverwinter Community team is running a 24 hour Neverwinter marathon livestream on Tuesday, and we’ll be taking donations for Child’s Play!

The livestream will be a true marathon: Our team will be going nonstop from noon on Tuesday until noon Wednesday, cracking jokes, running dungeons, hanging out with players, and fighting off sleep madness.

If we make you laugh, think about donating to Child’s Play. We’ve set up a donation campaign with Child’s Play for this livestream, and you can donate here. Child’s Play works to make hospital stays easier for sick kids, by providing them with games, toys, books and more fun stuff. Your donations can make a scary situation a little bit easier for a sick child.

In addition to showing off all the new Fury of the Feywild content on our Preview shard and hanging out with players, we’re going to be giving away prizes, having drop-ins with one or two devs, and guest-starring other members of the Perfect World team.

Make sure to tune in on Tuesday for this massive marathon for charity!

The livestream will be up at http://www.twitch.tv/perfectworld_community.

You can donate to Child’s Play here.

Start time: 12:01 PM PDT, Tuesday 8/13
End time: 12:01 PM PDT, Wednesday 8/14

(Click here for a time zone converter)

Things we’ll be giving away:

-Fury of the Feywild Packs
-Neverwinter promo chests, with a Valindra statue and more
-Gaming mice
-Gaming keyboards
-Neverwinter T-shirts
-A few D&D board games
And more!

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Quest Length Leads to Gamer Addiction? (EuroGamer.net)

Huh. I didn’t really see this coming. I mean, often times quests only take five or 10 minutes each. I don’t think the actual length of a question has any bearing at all. No one plays 90 minutes on a single quest and “some” gamers is a very, very, very tiny percentage. Nothing like a shock statistic to get folks to rally around banning video games for our health.

Now, if we’re talking about raiding…that’s a completely different animal.

How much time do folks spend watching TV in a week? Oy.

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Cyber psychologist calls on MMORPG developers to shorten long quests

To help prevent addiction and potential government intervention.

A cyber psychologist has called on the developers of massively multiplayer online role-playing games to help prevent addiction by tweaking their design.

Dr Zaheer Hussain, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Derby, called on MMORPG designers to look into the structure of their games, and suggested shortening long quests.The recommendation was made in “Social responsibility in online videogaming: What should the videogame industry do?“, a new study authored by Dr Hussain, Dr Shumaila Yousafzai from the Cardiff Business School and Professor Mark Griffiths, of Nottingham Trent University and director of the International Gaming Research Unit.The study, published in the Addiction Research and Theory journal, recommended developers reconsider the structure of their games in order to avoid government intervention of a kind seen in Asia.

The study said some gamers play up to 90 hours a session, developing a “pathological” addiction. A distinction was made between video games with an ending and MMORPGs, which do not. The researchers said around seven to 11 per cent of players were considered “pathological” gamers.

Dr Hussain said: “As a first step online game developers and publishers need to look into the structural features of the game design, for example the character development, rapid absorption rate, and multiplayer features which could make them addictive and or problematic for some gamers.

“One idea could be to shorten long quests to minimise the time spent in the game obtaining a certain prized item.”

In a BBC report, UKIE boss Dr Jo Twist responded to the study, saying: “There is no medical diagnosis of game addiction but like anything enjoyable in life, some people play games excessively.”

This isn’t the first time game addiction, particularly in reference to MMORPGs, has hit the headlines, and Blizzard’s hugely popular World of Warcraft is often cited in these cases.

In December 2010 Panorama investigated the issue in a programme called “Addicted to Games?”. In it, Panorama reporter Raphael Rowe met a mother who cut off her internet connection at home because she was worried about the amount of time her 19-year-old son was spending playing World of Warcraft.

At the time, Blizzard issued Panorama the following statement: “Our games are designed to be fun… but like all forms of entertainment… day-to-day life should always take precedence. World of Warcraft contains practical tools that assist players and parents in monitoring playing time.”

And in August 2012 the issue re-emerged after CNN met with people who had been in South Korean treatment centers for gaming addiction.

Then, Blizzard issued another statement.

“Games are meant to be a source of entertainment, and as with movies, books, sports, and music, we recognise that different people participate for different durations. With any form of entertainment, we feel it’s important to exercise personal responsibility and be mindful of outside obligations. It’s never our intent for our players to play our games to the exclusion of other activities.

“We also feel that a person’s day-to-day life should take precedence over any form of entertainment and that it’s ultimately up to the individual game player or his or her parent or guardian to determine how long he or she should spend playing any game.

“It’s important to note that players are able to jump into our games and accomplish appreciable and fulfilling goals, such as competing in matches, completing quests or matches, purchasing or selling equipment for their characters, hunting monsters, and socialising with friends, in a short amount of time, making our games enjoyable with minimal time commitments.”

In China, the Ministry of Culture has imposed strict restrictions on online gaming, designed to regulate the amount of time young people spend playing. Simon Parkin investigated café fatalities in Taiwan in an article published on Eurogamer last year.

A useful resource on MMO game addiction and the motivations of play is The Daedalus Project, which is the work of social scientist Nick Yee. The Daedalus Project, currently in hibernation, was an online survey of more than 40,000 MMORPG players that looked into how people interacted and competed in virtual worlds. Yee found about 50 per cent of MMORPG players would consider themselves addicted to the game.

Upsalite Accident Creates “Impossible Material” With Myriad Uses (Gizmag.com)

It’s amazing how incredible accidents in science can be. Upsalite could dramatically shift how we perceive everything from cat litter to antibiotic delivery methods.

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Scientists make “Impossible Material” … by accident

A sample of Upsalite

 

In an effort to create a more viable material for drug delivery, a team of researchers has accidentally created an entirely new material thought for more than 100 years to be impossible to make. Upsalite is a new form of non-toxic magnesium carbonate with an extremely porous surface area which allows it to absorb more moisture at low humidities than any other known material. “The total area of the pore walls of one gram of material would cover 800 square meters (8611 sq ft) if you would ‘roll them out'”, Maria Strømme, Professor of Nanotechnology at the Uppsala University, Sweden tells Gizmag. That’s roughly equal to the sail area of a megayacht. Aside from using substantially less energy to create dryer environments for producing electronics, batteries and pharmaceuticals, Upsalite could also be used to clean up oil spills, toxic waste and residues.

Scientists have long puzzled over this particular form of magnesium carbonate since it doesn’t normally occur in nature and has defied synthesis in laboratories. Until now, its properties have remained a mystery. Strømme confesses that they didn’t actually set out to create it. “We were really into making a porous calcium carbonate for drug delivery purposes and wanted to try to make a similarly porous magnesium carbonate since we knew that magnesium carbonate was non-toxic and already approved for drug delivery,” she tells us. “We tried to use the same process as with the calcium carbonate, totally unaware of the fact that researchers had tried to make disordered magnesium carbonates for many decades using this route without succeeding.”

Upsalite has a surface area of 800 square meters (8611 sq ft), the highest measured surface area for an alkali earth metal

 

The breakthrough came when they tweaked the process a little and accidentally left the material in the reaction chamber over a weekend. On their return they found a new gel in place. “We realized that the material we had made was one that had been claimed impossible to make,” Strømme adds. A year spent refining the process gave them Upsalite.

While creating a theoretical material sounds like cause for celebration, Strømme says the major scientific breakthrough is to be found in its amazing properties. No other known carbonate has a surface area as large as 800 sq m per gram. Though scientists have created many new high surface area materials with nanotechnology, such as carbon nanotubes and zeolites, what makes Upsalite special is the minuteness of its nanopores.

Each nanopore is less than 10 nanometers in diameter which results in one gram of the material having a whopping 26 trillion nanopores. “If a material has many small pores,” explains Strømme, “it gives the material a very large surface area per gram, which gives the material many reaction sites, i.e. sites that can react with the environment, with specific chemicals, or in the case of Upsalite, with moisture.”

Upsalite’s moisture absorption properties are striking. It was found to absorb 20 times more moisture than fumed silica, a material used for cat box fillers and as an anti-caking agent for moisture control during the transport of moisture sensitive goods. This means that you’d need 20 times less material to do the moisture control job.

Its unique pore structure also opens up new applications in drug delivery. The pores can host drugs that need protection from the environment before being delivered to the human body. It’s also useful in thermal insulation, drying residues from oil and gas industries, and as a dessicant for humidity control. Potential applications are still being discovered as the material undergoes development for industrial use.

The team at Uppsala University is commercializing Upsalite through their spin-off company Disruptive Materials. An article describing the material and its properties can be found at PLOS ONE.

iKnife is Capable of Sniffing Cancer During Surgery (Gizmag.com)

Gizmag.com has posted an article about a truly groundbreaking new surgical knife capable of sniffing tissue and determining if it’s cancer or benign. This breakthrough is amazing and offers a ridiculous amount of potential in other fields.

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The iKnife has been used in tests in 91 operations, where it showed 100 percent accuracy when compared to conventional tests.

Dr. Zoltan Takats of the Imperial College London has developed one very sharp knife – and we’re not referring to its keen edge. The Intelligent Knife (iKnife) is equipped with a nose and a brain that can sniff out cancer as it cuts. Using a mass spectrometer to detect chemical profiles associated with tumors, it enables instant identification of cancerous tissue and helps surgeons to make sure that all of a tumor has been removed.

Cancer is obviously something you want to catch early and get rid of completely at the first opportunity. Removing tumors is the simplest and often the least harmful way, but surgeons need to ensure they’ve removed all of the cancerous tissue to prevent the disease from reestablishing itself.

Unfortunately, cancerous tissue isn’t always obvious by sight and laboratory tests are needed. During an operation, this means leaving the patient waiting under anesthetic while the tests are run. Even then, the results aren’t always reliable. According to Imperial College, one in five breast cancer patients must undergo surgery a second time.

The iKnife uses electrosurgery; a common technique developed in the 1920s designed to reduce bleeding in particularly bloody operations, such as liver resectioning. The knife is subjected to an electric current, which heats tissue so fast and at such a temperature that the knife cuts through and cauterizes the tissue to prevent bleeding. Not surprisingly, this produces a cloud of unpleasant smoke, which is sucked away.

However, this cloud also contains all sorts of useful information about the tissue being burned through, so Takats hit on the idea of hooking an electrosurgical knife to a mass spectrometer, which would analyze the smoke and produce a profile of the chemicals that make it up. Some of these chemicals or their combinations are indicative of cancerous tissue.

Once the prototype iKnife was constructed, the next step was to teach it what to look for. This involved using the device to burn tissue samples collected from 302 surgery patients and building up a library of profiles of thousands of cancerous and noncancerous tissues from various organs of the body. As the iKnife cuts through tissue, it matches what it “smells” against this library and alerts the surgeon as to what it finds in about three seconds. This is a considerable improvement over the half hour needed for conventional laboratory tests.

The iKnife has been used in tests in 91 operations, where it showed 100 percent accuracy when compared to conventional tests. According to Imperial College, the next step will be clinical trials where the surgeons will be allowed to see the results in real time instead of after the operation, as was the case in the tests.

“These results provide compelling evidence that the iKnife can be applied in a wide range of cancer surgery procedures,” Dr Takats says. “It provides a result almost instantly, allowing surgeons to carry out procedures with a level of accuracy that hasn’t been possible before. We believe it has the potential to reduce tumor recurrence rates and enable more patients to survive.”

Takats sees the iKnife as having broader applications beyond cancer surgery. Mass spectrometry is a rather general tool and Takat says that it could be used to identify tissues with inadequate blood supply, the presence of certain bacteria, and might even be of use to the local butcher in telling beef from horsemeat.

The results of the iKnife project were published in Science Translational Medicine.

The video below introduces the iKnife.

Paraffin-Dipped Brain Cut Into 7,400 Slices Offers Highest Resolution 3-D Brain Imagery Ever (TechnologyReview.com)

(That’ll teach me to edit posts after 2:00 AM. Brain. Brain. Not Brian. *sigh*)

This is intense. Scientists have completed a 3-D image of an entire human brain in breathtaking detail using over 7,400 micro-slices of tissue. I wonder how long it took for them to reassemble all of those slices? That waxy-brain-feeding-tray machine is a bit creepy.

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Human Brain

Scientists have imaged the anatomy of an entire human brain at unprecedented resolution.

A new resource will allow scientists to explore the anatomy of a single brain in three dimensions at far greater detail than before, a possibility its creators hope will guide the quest to map brain activity in humans. The resource, dubbed the BigBrain, was created as part of the European Human Brain Project and is freely available online for scientists to use.

The researchers behind the BigBrain, led by Katrin Amunts at the Research Centre Jülich and the Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf in Germany, imaged the brain of a healthy deceased 65-year-old woman using MRI and then embedded the brain in paraffin wax and cut it into 7,400 slices, each just 20 micrometers thick. Each slice was mounted on a slide and digitally imaged using a flatbed scanner.

Alan Evans, a professor at the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and senior author of a paper that reports the results in the journal Science, says his team then took on “the technical challenge of trying to stitch together 7,500 sheets of Saran wrap” into a three-dimensional object using digital image processing. Many slices had small rips, tears, and distortions, so the team manually edited the images to fix major signs of damage and then used an automated program for minor fixes. Guided by previously taken MRI images and relationships between neighboring sections, they then aligned the sections to create a continuous 3-D object representing about a terabyte of data.

Evans says that existing three-dimensional atlases of human brain anatomy are usually limited by the resolution of MRI images—about a millimeter. The BigBrain atlas, in contrast, makes it possible to zoom in to about 20 micrometers in each dimension. That’s not enough to analyze individual brain cells, but it makes it possible to distinguish how layers of cells are organized in the brain.

Joshua Sanes, a neuroscientist at Harvard University, says the project represents one step toward realizing neuroscientists’ aspiration of looking at the human brain “with the sort of cellular resolution [with which] we can look at mouse or fly brains.” But while the atlas is a technical achievement that gives an unprecedented view of an entire brain’s anatomy, it can’t answer questions about brain activity or function, or about the connections between brain cells. The atlas also represents only a single brain, so it doesn’t capture variability between brains.

But Evans says it can be an important resource for future research. One of the larger goals of several brain initiatives worldwide—including the European project and the nascent BRAIN Initiative in the U.S. (see “The Brain Activity Map”)—is to integrate different kinds of data about brain structure and function, he says, and to create computational models of the brain to study processes such as childhood development or neurological diseases. Evans says such work depends on having a clear picture of the brain’s anatomy as a reference, and the BigBrain can serve as a platform on which other information can be mapped. “It’s the mother ship,” he says.

The researchers plan to lead studies integrating the BigBrain with other kinds of data, examining questions such as how genes are expressed and how neurotransmitters are distributed across the brain. They hope to repeat this work in other brains to start to look at how their structures vary.

Original TechnologyReview.com Article

Supreme Court: “Natural” Human Genes May Not Be Patented (TechnologyReview.com)

I haven’t been a massive fan of the Supreme Court over the past few years (companies = people, unlimited donations to politicians, etc.), but I think this is a really important ruling. Just look at Monsanto and how they and their competition have almost completely taken over all agriculture in the US. Can you imagine one of the big biotech firms owning rights on the human body? Yikes. Unfortunately, the ruling only covers natural DNA, not synthetically produced DNA.

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The Supreme Court gave a mixed ruling on the issue of human gene patents on Thursday, deciding that while DNA found naturally cannot be patented, synthetically produced DNA can.

The ruling means that companies will no longer be able to patent a sequence that exactly matches a sequence found in nature. Such sequences have been patented by companies that use them to determine someone’s risk of developing a certain disease. The patent holders have then been able to charge others to use that sequence as part of a medical test.

The court’s decision specifically relates to the question of whether one such company, Myriad Genetics, could patent the sequences of two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, that are related to the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Recently, actress Angelina Jolie announced that she underwent a preventive double mastectomy after learning she carried risk mutations in BRCA1. Myriad had held exclusive rights to determine whether a woman carried certain genetic variants in these genes that would predispose her to those cancers. It charged some $3,000 for the test.

The court’s decision says that Myriad does not have an exclusive right to test for these variants because they are naturally occurring. However, it also says that if a researcher or lab technician isolates a non-natural version of the gene in question—something known as complementary DNA, or cDNA—that person or company does have the exclusive rights to that sequence.

“A naturally occurring DNA segment is a product of nature and not patent eligible merely because it has been isolated, but cDNA is patent eligible because it is not naturally occurring,” the court ruled. The decision could help clarify the best claim strategies for companies developing diagnostic tests (see “Questions over Gene Patents Shake Diagnostics Industry”).

In drawing this line between naturally occurring DNA and cDNA, the court was trying to encourage innovation within the industry as well as products derived from nature, says Barbara Rudolph, an expert on biotechnology intellectual property, who is a partner with the law firm Finnegan. “The court noted this balance in the patent system between creating incentives that lead to new invention and impeding access to information that would spur invention,” she says.

The distinction lies in the details of molecular biology and the way a gene is prepped to become the recipe for creating a protein. In genomic DNA, genes exist as a mixture of components called exons, which encode the information for making a protein, and noncoding sequences, known as introns. To make a protein, cellular machinery first transcribes a gene—exons, introns, and all—into an intermediary molecule. Cellular machinery then cuts out the introns from that intermediate, creating a mature messenger RNA or mRNA. In a cell, that mRNA would be used as a recipe for making a protein. Scientists can isolate that mRNA and use an enzyme to convert it into DNA, which is called complementary DNA or cDNA. That molecule and its nucleotide sequence, the court writes, does not exist in nature, so they are patentable.

In fact, cDNA does exist naturally. Retroviruses such as HIV convert their RNA-based genomes into cDNA before they integrate into a host genome. They do this using the same naturally occurring enzyme that scientists and technicians use to convert an mRNA template into a cDNA.

Although there are other ways of synthesizing DNA, the court’s decision emphases that patent eligibility lies in the sequence of that DNA and whether or not it matches a natural DNA sequence. However, “the extent of difference that you are going to need is not clear,” says Rudolph.

The impact of this decision on molecular diagnostics companies remains to be seen, but Hank Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at the Stanford School of Medicine, says the decision won’t matter much to the genetics and biotech world. “There are thousands of patented genes used in genetic tests, but generally they are licensed on an open basis for a very low fee,” he says. “Myriad is the only company that has used strategies to get people upset.”

Even Myriad may not suffer too much from the decision. It will still have a competitive advantage because it has been building up its database of BRCA mutations for 15 years, Greely says: “Myriad is the best position to figure out what variants mean.”

The real impact of the decision may also be hard to know because technologies have moved beyond the methods patented by Myriad and because the decision focused on a DNA sequence, which is not going to be the focus of every diagnostic test claim. “Every patent claim is different,” Rudolph says.

Original Technology Review Article

911 App Uses Smartphones to Virtually Place Dispatchers at Scene of Emergencies (MDDIonline.com)

Being employed in the telecom industry since 2000, it’s great to see practical, helpful, possibly life-saving applications available for use on smartphones. As NextGen E911 is being deployed nationally, albeit slowly in many cases, expect to see texting, picture messaging, and more diagnostic uses for smartphones in emergencies.

Would you feel calm and collected enough during an emergency to start up an app and try to use it to save someone’s life?

MDDI Online Article Here

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911 App Uses Smartphones to Virtually Place Dispatchers at the Scene of Emergencies

The Android app enables 911 dispatchers to gather data such as blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing rate via a caller’s smartphone.

A team of researchers has developed a mobile medical application that harnesses smartphones to virtually place 911 dispatchers at the scene of emergency situations.

The app, developed by a team led by University of North Texas engineering professor Ram Dantu with support from the National Science Foundation’s Directorate for Computer and Information Science and Engineering, enables 911 dispatchers to remotely control the smartphone of a 911 caller at the scene, enabling the dispatcher to see video of the scene and collect vital information about the victim.

During emergency calls, 911 dispatchers ask callers basic questions to help them assess the situation, but callers don’t always know the answers.

“When a 911 operator asks the question, ‘Is the patient breathing?’ callers often have no idea,” Dantu said during a virtual press conference today.

A smartphone placed on a victim’s torso allows the emergency operator to view the victim’s breaths per minute. This allows the operator to gauge whether the caller should start CPR. Photo credit: Logan Widick, University of North Texas

The app his team created is intended to solve that problem. Using the software, a caller at the scene can place a smartphone on the victim’s chest to monitor their breathing rate and place the victim’s finger on the smartphone’s camera to check their heart rate. The app can also cufflessly monitor the victim’s blood pressure. All information captured is transmitted wirelessly to 911 dispatchers.

At the press conference, the research team also demonstrated the app’s CPR assistance feature. A 911 caller at the scene can strap a smartphone to their hands using a piece of clothing or a plastic bag, for example, to get instruction on how to perform CPR. The app can also provide real-time feedback—urging the caller to increase the speed or depth of compressions, for example.

The app also features text-to-speech technology, which can help in situations where a 911 caller doesn’t speak English or is hearing or speech impaired.

Henning Schultzrinne, of the Federal Communication Commission, said the app is one example of technology that can interface with the new Next Generation 911 systems being rolled out across the country. These IP-based systems replace the voice-only 911 systems used in the past and can incorporate new sources of information, such as text messages, images, video, and data.

The app has been tested by 40–50 individuals in a lab setting, and the researchers hope to launch a pilot in a hospital or nursing home environment soon, Dantu said. He said the app will require FDA approval, and the team’s next steps include talking with vendors of emergency dispatch protocols to learn how to integrate the app with their systems. It was initially developed for the Android platform, but the researchers also plan to launch a version that can run on Apple’s iOS. They hope to have a version of the app available for download in 2–3 months.

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