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Original author: 
Jacob Kastrenakes

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The FDA is investigating the safety of a surgical robot that was used in 367,000 procedures last year, following the documentation of a slew of potentially dangerous errors, reports the Associated Press. Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci system, a three- or four- armed robot remotely controlled by surgeons, is now in nearly a quarter of US hospitals, but an increasing number of reported potential mishaps — about 500 since last year — has caught the FDA's attention. Though there's no official results of the investigation yet, an FDA spokesperson told the AP that the increased quantity of incident reports may simply be a matter of better practices by doctors as they become more aware of the new tool. We've reached out to Intuitive Surgical...

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Perhaps it is the onset of delirium caused by trying to properly report a 30,000 attendee conference while also (and no less properly) reporting the colorful after-hours of New Orleans, but after a few days at SfN 2012 I have acquired the impression that this huge mass of brain scientists, when focused and sober, is capable of all sorts of wonder on which an apprentice science fiction author would feast. None of the press so far seem to harbor ambitions for literature, but if you had to bet a grant on who secretly does, bet on the absent freelancer – we will leave him unnamed – who carries around the convention center a fresh mint julep and feeds the mint leaves to the mouse saved from a laboratory that rides sentry on his shoulder.

There are plenty of hot topics to choose from, but his first book would probably be about neural optogenetics. A combination of optical and genetic research methods, optogenetics involves shooting lasers into particular brain tissue to inhibit or disinhibit its operative cells. Since its breakthrough about two years ago, the method has advanced to the point where researchers now talk about perfecting it and applying it. It’s fascinating tech, but does it amount to mind control, as some YouTube commenters might have you think? Not exactly.

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alphadogg writes "Judea Pearl, a longtime UCLA professor whose work on artificial intelligence laid the foundation for such inventions as the iPhone's Siri speech recognition technology and Google's driverless cars, has been named the 2011 ACM Turing Award winner. The annual Association for Computing Machinery A.M. Turing Award, sometimes called the 'Nobel Prize in Computing,' recognizes Pearl for his advances in probabilistic and causal reasoning. His work has enabled creation of thinking machines that can cope with uncertainty, making decisions even when answers aren't black or white."


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ananyo writes "LSD has potential as a treatment for alcoholism, according to a comprehensive retrospective analysis of studies published in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The researchers sifted through thousands of records to collect data from randomized, double-blind trials that compared one dose of LSD to a placebo. Of 536 participants in six trials, 59% of people receiving LSD reported lower levels of alcohol misuse (PDF), compared to 38% of people who received a placebo. The study adds to the weight of evidence that hallucinogenic drugs may have important medical uses, including, for example, the alleviation of cluster headaches."


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diversity is everywhere in India, from its religions and languages to its economy, and climates. The second-most populous nation in the world, India is home to more than 1.2 billion people. Most are Hindu, but seven other religions -- including Islam, Christianity and Sikhism -- make up nearly 20 percent of the population. January 26 will be India's 62nd Republic Day, marking the date in 1950 when the country's constitution came into force. Collected here are recent photos from across the vast nation, offering only a small glimpse of the people and diversity of India. [41 photos]

Indian soldiers from the Border Security Forces atop camels stand at attention in front of the Presidential Palace during a ceremony in preparation for the annual Beating Retreat in New Delhi, India, on January 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Kevin Frayer)

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It's time once more for a look into the animal kingdom and our interactions with the countless other species that share our planet. Today's photos include a fiery Spanish festival, a frightening encounter with a leopard in India, a flamingo undergoing laser treatment, a new species named in honor of entertainer Beyonce, and the plight of Ukraine's "vodka bears". These images and many others are part of this roundup of animals in the news from recent weeks, seen from the perspectives of their human observers, companions, captors, and caretakers. [42 photos]

A man rides a horse through a bonfire on January 16, 2012 in the small village of San Bartolome de Pinares, Spain. In honor of San Anton, the patron saint of animals, horses are ridden through the bonfires on the night before the official day of honoring animals in Spain. (Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)

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More than 500 teams are currently speeding across the deserts of Argentina, Chile, and Peru, racing more than 8,300 km (5,150 mi) in the 33rd annual Dakar Rally. Competitors pit themselves against the elements, driving specialized off-road cars, trucks, motorcycles, and quadbikes through challenging terrain for two weeks. One rider, Argentine Jorge Martinez Boero, has already died this year in a crash. The 2012 Dakar Rally began in Mar del Plata, Argentina, on January 1, and racers reached the finish line in Lima, Peru, on Sunday, January 15. [41 photos]

Stefan Svitko rides his KTM during the 10th stage of the Dakar Rally 2012, from Iquique to Arica, Chile, on January 11, 2012. (Reuters/Jerome Prevot)

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According to the latest jobs numbers, issued by the Labor Department on January 6, the U.S. unemployment rate has dropped to 8.5 percent, down from 10 percent in 2009. The Great Recession has claimed more than 8.5 million jobs since 2007, and even though the current trajectory of the U.S. appears to be toward recovery, Americans are still struggling to find work. Nine of the photographs below appear in The Atlantic's January/February 2012 print issue, and I've added 25 more here to round out a collection of images from these years of uncertainty -- of men and women both at work and out of work in the United States. [34 photos]

A workman steams a U.S. flag in preparation for a planned visit by President Barack Obama, on April 6, 2011, at wind turbine manufacture Gamesa Technology Corporation in Fairless Hills, Pennsylvania. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

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