Discovered: looking at violent images is unhealthy; a smart carpet; the gene that could be responsible for Internet addiction; infrared camera finds public drunks.
Camera locates drunks in public. Next time you stumble out of a bar and make your way home, know that someone, somewhere, might be tracking you with an infrared camera. At least, that could soon become the case thanks to computer scientists Georgia Koukiou and Vassilis Anastassopoulos of the University of Patras in Greece, who've developed two algorithms that could be applied to thermal image scanning to find people with heightened blood alcohol levels in public. The camera would work by gathering data from faces, which give away tell-tale signs of intoxication such as blood-vessel dilation and warm noses. Similar systems have been developed to detect SARS-infected people at airports, and even to spy on Occupy protesters. The researchers hope their drunk-scanner will make police certain of a suspect's intoxication before they approach them. [Wired]
iCarpet. In the future, the world will be so technologically advanced that even the carpets we tread on will be programmed to detect our every move. Actually the future is now, because researchers based at the University of Manchester have developed a "magic carpet" that uses optical fibre networks to sense movement. This technology could be useful for elderly people whose motor skills are deteriorating. It could predict future mobility problems and detect falls, sending out alerts when people who live on their own can't get up. Prof. Chris Todd says, "More than a third of older people fall each year, and in nursing and residential homes it is much more common than that. So being able to identify changes in people's walking patterns and gait in the natural environment, such as in a corridor in a nursing home, could really help us identity problems earlier on." [BBC]
Looking at traumatic images regularly isn't healthy. Maybe those strict MPAA ratings are a good idea after all. A team of UC Irvine researchers finds that repeated exposure to traumatic images may be unhealthy. They studied a group of diverse U.S. adults, some of whom watched September 11 attack coverage and footage from the Iraq War for upwards of four hours a day. The results aren't all that shocking, given such graphic imagery: the participants were more likely to psychological and physical ailments than those who didn't have to stomach so much traumatic imagery. UCI professor Roxane Cohen Silver wanted to better understand the health effects of "collective traumas," and she warns viewers not to stay glued to cable news whenever a traumatic event occurs. "It’s important for people to be aware that there is no psychological benefit to repeated exposure to graphic images of horror," she says. [UC Irvine]
Internet addiction could be genetic. Can't pry yourself away from your laptop, and all the wonders the Internet holds within? Perhaps you have a mutation on the CHRNA4 gene. Researchers led by the University of Bonn's Christian Montag have shown that Internet addicts display CHRNA4 mutations at a higher rate than non-addicts. This gene is also thought by scientists to influence nicotine addiction. The Internet addiction gene was commonly detected in women web-fiends than men. "Internet addiction is not a figment of our imagination," says Montag, who argues that his study "shows that there are clear indications for genetic causes of Internet addiction." The Atlantic's Robert Wright has a much more skeptical take about what the new study shows. [U.S. News]