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First brain-controlled artificial limb test

Another cybernetics milestone: A man used a brain implant to control an artifical limb.

Nagle was given a general anaesthetic before a disc the size of a poker chip was cut from his skull. After making an incision in the brain's protective membrane, a tiny array of 96 hair-thin electrodes, each protruding about a millimetre, was pressed onto the surface of his brain, just above a region of the sensory motor cortex that is home to the neuronal circuitry governing arm and hand movement. With the electrodes in position, the bony disc was replaced, leaving room for a tiny wire to connect the electrodes to a metal plate the size of a 10p piece that sits on Nagle's head like a button.

To read brain signals from Nagle's motor cortex, Donoghue's researchers attach an amplifier to the metallic button on his head and run a cable to a computer. When he's hooked up, the tiny voltages of the sparking neurons beneath the electrodes produce a series of brainwaves that dance on the computer screen.

(Found link via this /. article)

In distantly related news, here's an article on how the Secret Service is using distributed computing to crack encryption on confiscated files. They're deploying it to run silently in the background of agency desktop computers. What's particularly interesting here is that they make great use of the human factor by scouring the computer for personal info and interests of the user to find candidate words for passwords:

"If we've got a suspect and we know from looking at his computer that he likes motorcycle Web sites, for example, we can pull words down off of those sites and create a unique dictionary of passwords of motorcycle terms," the Secret Service's Lewis said.

Hansen recalled one case several years ago in which police in the United Kingdom used AccessData's technology to crack the encryption key of a suspect who frequently worked with horses. Using custom lists of words associated with all things equine, investigators quickly zeroed in on his password, which Hansen says was some obscure word used to describe one component of a stirrup.

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