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Friday, July 19, 2013



  • How to build a brain in your spare time
  • VeloCity competitions heat up next week


  • Editor:
  • Brandon Sweet
  • Communications and Public Affairs


How to build a brain in your spare time

a modified news release by the Media Relations team.

It sounds like science fiction, but a new book by a University of Waterloo professor, published by Oxford University Press, is actually a step-by-step guide, teaching readers how they can build their own computer model of the human brain.

"How To Build a Brain" by Professor Chris Eliasmith details how and he and his team built Spaun, the world’s largest functional brain model. The book gives hands-on tutorials that even newcomers to the field can undertake, quickly allowing them to construct a wide range of biologically realistic brain models.

"This book is aimed at anyone wishing to understand how large numbers of neurons form brain circuits that result in behaviour," said Professor Eliasmith, director of the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience at Waterloo, Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Neuroscience, and professor in Waterloo's Department of Philosophy and Department of Systems Design Engineering. “The semantic, syntactical, control, learning, and memory models covered by the book and tutorials are the components that we used to create Spaun.”

The Spaun project has received international acclaim ever since Eliasmith's findings were published in the journal Science in November. Spaun, which stands for Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network, consists of 2.5 million simulated neurons. The model is able to shift between diverse tasks—from copying human handwriting to finding hidden patterns in a list of numbers—using a detailed neural architecture.

Professor Eliasmith is one of the field’s top researchers, and his book gives readers deep and practical insight into the leading ideas on how brains work. His project was inspired by brain research but is among the first to address cognitive phenomena, helping researchers in neuroscience, psychology, and artificial intelligence build theoretical models that are able to help explain the brain's flexibility, robustness and ability to adapt.

“The brain is a fascinating and inspiring structure. We still have much to learn about how it really works, and what makes a mind,” said Professor Eliasmith. “Spaun is the first model of its kind. By sharing how we built it, we hope that others join us in exploring the brain and help us unlock more of its secrets.”

To learn more, check out this video.

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VeloCity competitions heat up next week

On Thursday, July 25 between 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m., all are invited to the VeloCity Demo Day Finals and Venture Fund Finals, as a total of $103,000 is awarded to seven up-and-coming Univerisity of Waterloo-based startups.

Boxed lunches available free of charge to the first one hundred audience members, and all in attendance will be entered to win one of two Pebble smartwatches.

Demo Day finalists - targeting the support of judges Ali Asaria, Wayne Chang, and Ian McDonald - are pitching their ideas, starting at 11:00 a.m., for the chance to win one of three $1,000 prizes. The finalists are Closet Explorer; Diggos; Flow; Neverfrost; Shocklock; StudyMe; and tl;dr;. Afterward, you can catch up with these teams at their booths.

At 1:00 p.m., the VeloCity Venture Fund Finals take centre stage, with each startup pitching its idea for the chance to win one of four $25,000 prizes. VeloCity Venture Fund finalists include Blacktree Health; GoPexo; Kite; LibertyBit; Planleaf; Redro; SesameIO; SoundBrush; Tessoll; and Wriber. Judges Ted Livingston, Karam Nijjar, Mike Stork, and Cameron Hay will hold the keys to victory.

After the event takes place, everyone in attendance is welcome to hang out and catch live demos by the VeloCity Venture Fund contestants until the event concludes at 3:00 p.m.

Whether you're there in person or there in spirit, use these hashtags and handles to get famous via the Twitter wall: #DemoDay #VVF @uwvelocity

For more information, visit the VeloCity event page.

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Link of the day

WorldFuture 2013

When and where

Emergency First Aid and CPR C Course, Saturday, July 20, 9:30 a.m., 6:00 p.m., CLV Community Centre. Cost is $60. Details.

UW Stock Pitch Competition, Saturday, July 20, 10:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., QNC. Details.

"The Future of 3D Graphics is in Software!", Monday, July 22, 5:00 p.m., MC 4020. Details.

UWSA special general meeting, Tuesday, July 23, 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m., PHY 145. Details.

UW Farm Market, Thursday, July 25, SLC lower level, 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.

VeloCity Demo Day and Venture Fund Finals, Thursday, July 25, 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., SLC Great Hall.

ChemEd 2013 conference, Sunday, July 28 to Thursday, August 1. Details.

WatRISQ seminar featuring Roger Lee, associate professor of mathematics, University of Chicago, "Variance Swaps on Time-Changed Markov Processes," Monday, July 29, 4:00 p.m., M3 3127.

QKD Summer School 2013, Monday July 29 to Friday, August 2, Institute for Quantum Computing. Details.

Spring Term lectures end, Tuesday, July 30 (which is a Monday class schedule).

Pre-examination study days, Wednesday, July 31 to Monday, August 5.

Civic Holiday, Monday, August 5, university closed.

Drop, Penalty 2 Period ends, Monday, August 5.

3rd Annual Conference on Quantum Cryptography, Monday, August 5 to Friday, August 9, Institute for Quantum Computing. Details.

On-campus examinations begin, Tuesday, August 6.

Online class examination days, Friday, August 9 and Saturday, August 10.

Quantum Cryptography School for Young Students, Monday, August 12 to Friday, August 16, Institute for Quantum Computing. Details.

On-campus examinations begin, Tuesday, August 6.

Online class examination days, Friday, August 9 and Saturday, August 10.

Quantum Cryptography School for Young Students, Monday, August 12 to Friday, August 16, Institute for Quantum Computing. Details.

UWRC Book Club featuring Sebastian Barry's "The Secret Scripture," Wednesday, August 21, 12:00 p.m., LIB 407.


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