Gallant Lab/Berkley
Gallant Lab/Berkley

Scientists Recreate Dreams With YouTube Videos

Gallant Lab/Berkley
Gallant Lab/Berkley

Mind reading used to belong to the realms of sci-fi books and comic strips. But in 2011, a team of scientists from UC Berkeley discovered a way to construct YouTube videos from a viewer’s brain activity.

Participants from the study watched YouTube videos inside of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machine. The researchers then collected the data from the MRI scans and reconstructed the videos based on colors, shapes, and movements.

Based on changes in blood flow within the brain, the team could determine if the viewer was looking at an actor’s face or an inanimate object like an airplane. From there, the scientists collected YouTube clips that matched the participant’s brain activity pattern and overlaid the scenes on top of one another. The result was a blurry, surrealistic video that featured ghost-like shapes and movements.

The next step in research was to reconstruct people’s dreams and memories into films. Unlike true visual perceptions from watching YouTube videos, dreams and memories were chosen because they exist independently from reality.

Earlier this year, a team of scientists from Kyoto was able to do just that. In their study, the group of researchers successfully analyzed and recorded the basic elements of participants’ dreams.

Participants were asked to sleep for three-hour time blocks inside of an MRI scanner. As soon as they fell asleep, the scientists woke them up and asked them to describe what they had seen in their dreams. Scientists then picked basic representations of those descriptions from an online image search. Then, participants were asked to fall asleep again. Except this time, the machine would try to match the dreams with a series of images.

Turns out, the machine was correct 60 percent of the time and could accurately map categorical objects to brain activity, thereby creating a video simulation of the dream.

In just a few years, it may be possible to recreate and produce your own dreams into full-length feature films. Who knows—the next blockbuster could come from a simple good night’s rest.

Big Questions
Why Are the Keys On a QWERTY Keyboard Laid Out As They Are?

Why are the keys on a QWERTY keyboard laid out as they are?

C Stuart Hardwick:

What is commonly called QWERTY (more properly, the Sholes layout) was designed by Christopher Lathan Sholes, then modified through a series of business relationships. Sholes's original keyboard was alphabetical and modeled after a printing telegraph machine. The alphabetical layout was easy to learn, but not easy to type on.

For one thing, all practical typing machines of the day relied on mechanical levers, and adjacent letters could jam if struck with rapidity. There has long been a myth that Sholes designed the QWERTY layout to slow typists down in order to prevent this. Nothing could be further from the truth, but Sholes’s first customers were telegraphers. Over several years, he adapted the piano-like alphabetical keyboard into
a four-row keyboard designed to aid telegraphers in their transcription duties.

This new layout mostly spread out commonly struck keys, but also placed easily confused telegraph semaphores together. This layout was sufficient to permit telegraph transcription to keep up with transmissions and created a growing market.

During this time, Sholes teamed up with several other inventors to form a typewriter company with assignment of all related patents. An association with Remington led to increased sales, at which time another company acquired the shift platen patent that permits a typewriter to type in mixed case, and they seem to have made a few essentially random changes in order to avoid the original typewriter company patents.

So that’s it then, right? QWERTY is crap?

Well, no. QWERTY was based mostly on the needs of telegraphers in transcribing Morse code, and Morse had been scientifically designed to make transmission of English language messages as efficient as possible. The result is that the QWERTY arrangement is pretty good—efficiency-wise.

In the 1930s, John Dvorak used modern time-motion study techniques to design his own keyboard, and around it had grown up a whole cult following and mythology. But the fact is, it’s much ado about nothing. Careful scientific studies in the 1950s, '70s, and '80s have shown that choice between the Sholes and Dvorak layout makes no material difference in typing speed. Practice and effort are what yields rapid typing, and studies of professional typists have shown that however well we may perform on timed trials, few typists ever exceed 35 words per minute in their daily work.

So relax. Take an online typing course, practice a little, and relax.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Afternoon Map
Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site

[h/t Thrillist]


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