Scared of needles? You aren’t alone. According to some estimates, as many as 1 in every 10 people are frightened of needles, and experts fear that the fear of pain may deter people from getting important injections at the doctor’s office.
But what if getting a shot didn’t hurt? That’s the idea behind new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Anesthesiologists, which showed how vibrations and pressure applied to the injection site right before a shot could reduce pain.
“Our early research suggests that using a device that applies pressure and vibration before the needle stick could help significantly decrease painful sensations by closing the ‘gate’ that sends pain signals to the brain,” lead author of the study William MacKay said in a press release.
The 'gate' that MacKay refers to is related to the gate control theory of pain. The theory basically says that pain occurs for people when it reaches the brain, and the stimulus that causes pain has to travel through neurological gates along the spinal cord to get there. By occupying those gates with other sensations (like vibrations or pressure), the sensation of the needle stick is able to slip by our neurological defenses.
The researchers also looked at the effects of heat and cold, but found that the combination of pressure and vibration seemed to have the most dramatic pain reduction effect. (Adding heat to the combination of pressure and vibration also reduced pain, but not by a significant amount.)
The study was small, with a sample size of only 21 people, but the researchers are hopeful that by quantifying people’s perceptions of pain they can help other researchers develop or improve devices already in the works that have the same goal. And there are plenty of people and companies interested in finding a needle that doesn’t hurt or terrify patients. Other vibrating needles are slowly making their way towards the market, and, as we reported a few weeks ago, some researchers are developing pills with needles inside that you can swallow.
The other big announcement for the day is of course Apple’s new iPads, the iPad Air 2 and the iPad mini 3. As signaled by their names, neither is intended to be a massive departure from their (still for sale) predecessors. But both of them, the iPad Air 2 in particular, pack a number of improvements over the 2013 models.
In-hand, the iPad Air 2 is not as significant a departure from its predecessor as the original Air was from earlier iPads, but if you are familiar with the original Air then you can appreciate the fact that Apple has taken it down from 7.5mm thick to 6.1mm thick. The weight is roughly the same (437g vs. 469g) so it’s not much lighter in the hand, but handling it makes the change in size more apparent.
Perhaps more readily apparent is the anti-reflective coating, a first for an iPad. While Apple’s controlled demo room doesn’t give us the opportunity to introduce too much light, in what testing we could do there’s definitely a difference. Whatever it is that Apple is using, the coating doesn’t seem to have changed the clarity at all; it is seemingly still as clear as the non-coated iPad mini 3.
Meanwhile the A8X inside presents us with a new mystery. This is a new chip, and we know very little about it besides Apple’s claims of 40% better CPU performance and 2.5x better GPU performance. The CPU performance points to a dual core “Enhanced Cyclone” configuration like A8, while the GPU performance number is well in excess of what we saw going from A7 to A8. So comparing A8X to A7, we are most likely (finally) looking at a hex-core Imagination PowerVR GX6650 GPU. However, this alone does not explain where the roughly 1 billion additional transistors compared to A8 have gone. Most likely there are additional surprises to be found.
Moving on, we have the iPad mini 3. Unlike the iPad Air 2, Apple isn’t overhauling the hardware by nearly as much, so the iPad mini 3 is a smaller upgrade over its predecessor than the iPad Air 2 is. Size and weight stay the same, so the new mini feels the same in your hands as the old one. The display is also once more a 2048 x 1536 pixel display, though it did look a bit better than we recall the iPad mini 2’s display being, so it may be a new panel (but this is something we’d need to test).
Apple hasn’t replaced the SoC or WiFi radio – it’s still an A7 and 802.11n respectively – so performance isn’t any different either. What’s left to set apart the new mini from the old then is the inclusion of Apple’s Touch ID sensor along with a larger 128GB storage option. It’s admittedly not much, especially when the iPad mini 2 is now $100 cheaper. On the other hand it is available in Gold, and as we’ve seen with the iPhone that has proven to be a very popular option at launch.
We just got done with our hands-on time with Apple’s new products, and we’ll start with what’s likely the sneakiest of them, the iMac with Retina Display.
Why “sneaky”? The answer is all in the HiDPI display, which Apple calls the “Retina 5K Display”. The retina display is definitely the star of the new iMac, as the rest of the hardware is largely a minor specification bump from last year’s model. In fact turned off you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between the 2013 (non-retina) and new retina models, but the screen is immediately evident once on.
At 5120x2880 pixels, the new Retina 5K Display is precisely 4x the pixels of the 2560x1440 panel in last year’s model. What this means is that Apple can tap their standard bag of tricks to handle applications of differing retina capability and get all of it to look reasonably good. This also means that 2560x1440 content – including widgets – will scale up nicely to the new resolution. Apple does not discuss whom they have sourced the panel from, but given the timing it’s likely the same panel that is in Dell’s recently announced 27” 5K monitor.
Much more interesting is how Apple is driving it. Since no one has a 5K timing controller (TCON) yet, Apple went and built their own. This is the first time we’re aware of Apple doing such a thing for a Mac, but it’s likely they just haven’t talked about it before. In any case, Apple was kind enough to confirm that they are driving the new iMac’s display with a single TCON. This is not a multi-tile display, but instead is a single 5120x2880 mode.
This also means that since it isn’t multi-tile, Apple would need to drive it over a single DisplayPort connection, which is actually impossible with conventional DisplayPort HBR2. We’re still getting to the bottom of how Apple is doing this (and hence the sneaky nature of the iMac), but currently our best theory is that Apple is running an overclocked DisplayPort/eDP interface along with some very low overhead timings to get just enough bandwidth for the job. Since the iMac is an all-in-one device, Apple is more or less free to violate specifications and do what they want so long as it isn’t advertised as DisplayPort and doesn’t interact with 3rd party devices.
Update: And for anyone wondering whether you can drive the 5K display as an external display using Target Display Mode, Apple has confirmed that you cannot.
Meanwhile driving the new display are AMD’s Radeon R9 M290X and R9 M295X, which replace the former NVIDIA GTX 700M parts. We don’t have any performance data on the M295X, though our best guess is to expect R9 285-like performance (with a large over/under). If Apple is fudging the DisplayPort specification to get a single DisplayPort stream, then no doubt AMD has been helping on this matter as one of the most prominent DisplayPort supporters.
The rest of the package is very similar to the 2013 iMac. It comes with an Intel Haswell desktop class CPU paired with 8GB or more RAM, 802.11ac support, and Apple’s SSD + HDD Fusion drive setup. Apple now offers a higher speed CPU upgrade option that goes up to 4GHz (4.4GHz Boost) – likely the Core i7-4790K – that should make the high-end iMac decently more performant than last year’s model by about 10%.
New York Comic Con attendee cosplays as every Johnny Depp character at once.
Remember the first time you were introduced to Marsellus Wallace. The first shot of him was of the back of his head, complete with band-aid. Then, remember the combination of the lock on the briefcase was 666. Then, remember that whenever anyone opened the briefcase, it glowed, and they were in amazement at how beautiful it was; they were speechless. Now, bring in some Bible knowledge, and remember that when the devil takes your soul, he takes it from the back of your head.
Yep, you guessed it. What is the most beautiful thing about a person: his soul. Marsellus Wallace had sold his soul to the devil, and was trying to buy it back. The three kids in the beginning of the movie were the devil's helpers. And remember that when the kid at the end came out of the bathroom with a "hand cannon," Jules and Vincent were not harmed by the bullets. "God came down and stopped the bullets" because they were saving a soul. It was divine intervention.
The path of the righteous man is beset on all sides by the inequities of the selfish and the tyranny of evil men. Blessed is he who, in the name of charity and good will, shepherds the weak through the valley of the darkness. For he is truly his brother's keeper and the finder of lost children. And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who attempt to poison and destroy my brothers. And you will know I am the Lord when I lay my vengeance upon you.
When Concetta Antico looks at a leaf, she sees much more than just green. “Around the edge I’ll see orange or red or purple in the shadow; you might see dark green but I’ll see violet, turquoise, blue,” she said. “It’s like a mosaic of color.”
Antico doesn’t just perceive these colors because she’s an artist who paints in the impressionist style. She’s also a tetrachromat, which means that she has more receptors in her eyes to absorb color. The difference lies in Antico's cones, structures in the eyes that are calibrated to absorb particular wavelengths of light and transmit them to the brain. The average person has three cones, which enables him to see about one million colors. But Antico has four cones, so her eyes are capable of picking up dimensions and nuances of color—an estimated 100 million of them—that the average person cannot. “It’s shocking to me how little color people are seeing,” she said.
Although tetrachromats have more receptors in their eyes, their brains are wired the same way as a person with normal vision. So how can a brain like Antico’s change to see more colors? Like anything else, practice makes perfect, even when it comes to neural pathways.
For years, researchers weren’t sure tetrachromacy existed. If it did, they stipulated, it could only be found in women. This is because of the genes behind color vision. People who have regular color vision have three cones, tuned to the wavelengths of red, green, and blue. These are connected to the X chromosome—men have one, but women have two. Mutations in the X chromosome cause a person to perceive more or less color, which is why men more commonly have congenital colorblindness than women (if their one X chromosome has a mutation). But the theory stood that if a woman received two mutated X chromosomes, she could have four cones instead of the usual three.
This is the case with Antico; researchers confirmed that she is a tetrachromat in 2012. One percent of the world’s population is thought to be tetrachromatic, but it’s not easy to demonstrate empirically. “The difference between [the color dimensions perceived by] a tetrachromat and someone with normal vision is not as dramatic as the difference between someone who is colorblind and someone with normal vision,” according to Kimberly Jameson, a cognitive scientist at the Institute for Mathematical Behavioral Sciences at the University of California in Irvine. She and her colleague Alissa Winkler at the University of Nevada in Reno have been studying Antico for about a year to better understand tetrachromacy. The differences in color perception are hard to detect because they’re small, Jameson said, but the tests that are currently used are not designed for more than three pigments--red, green and blue.
Based on Antico's genes, Jameson has determined that Antico's fourth cone absorbs wavelengths that are "reddish-orangey-yellow, but what it appears to Concetta is uncertain at the moment," she added. Since the tests aren't calibrated for this wavelength, empirically demonstrating tetrachromacy is still really difficult.
Jameson and Winkler are on the hunt for more tetrachromats in order to better understand how their brains work. Jameson became fascinated with how people are able to form and communicate concepts, especially when the way they perceive the world can vary so widely. “If you have an extra cone class in the retina, that greatly complicates how that signal might be taking shape as it leaves the retina. We want to understand how that’s happening,” she said. This likely has to do with how the brain wires itself when it receives certain signals frequently over time—a concept called neuroplasticity. Lots of studies about neuroplasticity in animals and some in humans have shown that two individuals with the same capacity for visual perception can have drastically different vision later in life just based on what they were exposed to early on. Researchers still aren’t totally sure why this is the case. “One possibility is that the system learns how to use these signals—the wiring creates the proper code so they can be used in the cortex,” Jameson said.
So even though many more tetrachromats may exist in the world, they may not have exceptional color perception, because they haven’t trained their brains to pay attention. Antico, in this case, presents a rare exception. “I was different than a regular 5-year-old — I was painting at age 7, I was so fascinated with color,” she said. For years, she was exposed to exceptional color, so her brain became wired to take advantage of her tetrachromacy.
Antico has a personal stake in the continued research of tetrachromacy. Five years ago, when Antico’s daughter was 7 years old, the family learned that she was colorblind. “I didn’t think it had anything to do with me, but she’s colorblind because of me. I have a mutation,” Antico said. The more she helps scientists understand tetrachromacy, she figures, the better they will be able to help people like her daughter. “If we understand genetic potential for tetrachromacy and how their perception differs, we can understand quite a lot about visual processing of color that we currently don’t understand,” Jameson agreed.
But Antico may have stumbled upon a different way to help those who are color deficient. She is a professional artist who has been teaching painting for over 20 years, and she has a number of students who are colorblind. “One of the things that has been made apparent by looking at their artwork is that they have a good appreciation for color, unlike any other individual who I’ve ever seen that is color deficient,” Jameson said. “It’s very possible that by being tuned in from a very early age to color differences, [Antico] may have acquired some understanding and articulation for how to help them do that.” This hypothesis still needs to be proven empirically, of course, but Jameson is intrigued by the prospect of improving people’s perception of color through the training that neuroplasticity allows.
In addition to spending her time helping researchers better understand tetrachromacy, Antico hopes to open an art school for the colorblind and create an online platform for people around the world to discover if they are tetrachromatic. “I want to be sure before I die that I’m able to define tetrochromatism,” she said. “There have to be more tetrachromats out there. Maybe I can lead the way for that.”