Saturday, 31 August 2013


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10 Infants Who Disappeared
By Robin Warder,
Listverse, 31 August 2013.

No unsolved mystery is more heart-breaking than the disappearance of an infant. It is an incredibly painful experience for a parent to bring a child into the world and only enjoy a limited amount of time with them before they go missing and are never heard from again. But in this type of case, at least there’s always a decent possibility that the victim is still alive. Whenever an infant is abducted, it’s often done by someone who wants to raise the child as their own, or sell the baby for the purposes of illegal adoption. The child can grow up and live a seemingly normal life without knowing that they were stolen from their real family.

A recent example of this was when a 23-year-old woman named Carlina White discovered that the woman she thought was her mother had actually abducted her from a hospital when she was only 19 days old. In the end, she finally got to reunite with her biological parents. In some of the following cases, the parents themselves have been suspected of causing their child’s disappearance, but there’s always a chance these missing infants might still be alive somewhere.

10. Marlene Santana

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On October 18, 1985, Francesca Santana gave birth to a little girl named Marlene at Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn. Three days later, Francesca was viewing her new-born baby in the nursery when an unidentified Hispanic-looking woman in her late twenties started a conversation with her and commented that Marlene was the prettiest baby there. Later that night, Francesca and two of her relatives were leaving the hospital with Marlene when she was confronted outside by this same woman, who pulled a gun on them and forced them to walk six blocks to a deserted junkyard.

The woman ordered Francesca to hand over the baby. After the assailant pointed her gun directly at Marlene and threatened to shoot her, Francesca complied with her demand. Francesca and her relatives barely had time to react before the woman took Marlene, jumped into a nearby car driven by an accomplice, and sped away. Authorities speculated that Marlene was either sold for adoption or that the woman responsible was unable to have children and decided to steal a baby whom she could raise as her own. Sadly, over 27 years have passed and Marlene Santana remains missing.

9. Raymond Lamar Green

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Donna Green gave birth to a son named Raymond on November 1, 1978 at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta. While viewing her new-born in the nursery, Donna met an African-American woman who called herself “Lisa Morris.” She claimed she was there visiting her sister, who had just given birth. Donna conversed with this woman on numerous occasions before being discharged from the hospital and taking Raymond home.

On November 6, Morris made a surprise visit to Donna’s apartment, claiming she wanted to see how Raymond was doing. Donna let her in to see the baby, and since her brother Tony was also there at the time, Donna felt comfortable leaving the room to take a shower for three minutes while Morris was visiting. However, when Donna emerged from the shower, Tony claimed that Morris had taken Raymond outside after he started crying. Donna went to look for them, but was told by a neighbour that Morris had climbed into a vehicle and driven away with Raymond. After contacting the police, Donna found out the name “Lisa Morris” was false and that no one fitting her description had a sister who had given birth at that hospital. The woman’s identity remains a mystery, and unfortunately, Raymond Lamar Green’s whereabouts are still unknown.

8. Bryan Dos Santos-Gomes

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In Fort Myers, Florida, on December 1, 2006, Maria de Fatima Ramos Dos Santos was waiting at the bus stop with her three-week-old son Bryan and a female friend when a Hispanic woman pulled up in an SUV asking for directions. When Maria and her friend eventually got on the bus, the woman followed them and asked for directions again after they got off at their stop. They decided to climb into the vehicle to help the woman when they were suddenly abducted. Maria took note of the fact that the SUV already had a car seat and diaper bag inside. The woman drove them to Estero and demanded US$500 before dropping Maria and her friend off and driving away with Bryan.

Maria and her husband, Jurandir Gomes Costa, are originally from a village in Brazil, and they paid human traffickers to smuggle them into the United States. It was initially suspected that Bryan was abducted because Jurandir had fallen behind in his payments to them. However, police soon leaned toward Bryan’s abduction being a random crime after another Fort Myers woman came forward and described a similar incident. On the day of Bryan’s abduction, she had been out walking with her infant grandchild when this same Hispanic woman pulled up in an SUV asking for directions. It’s believed that the woman might have been looking to steal a child she could raise as her own, but neither Bryan nor his abductor have ever been found.

7. Melissa McGuinn

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Rebecca and Robert McGuinn lived in Trenton, New Jersey, with their seven-month-old daughter Melissa and two roommates, one of whom was 30-year-old Wanda Faye Reed. On March 6, 1988, Wanda asked Rebecca if she could take Melissa for a walk and was given permission to do so. Wanda left and returned eight minutes later with a neighbour, but Melissa was not with her. Wanda was mentally disabled and functioned at the level of a four-year-old child, so she wound up giving conflicting stories about what happened to Melissa.

At first, she claimed that an unidentified African-American man knocked her down and stole the baby. Wanda then said she dropped Melissa in the Delaware River before changing her story again and claiming that the neighbour she was with had exchanged the baby for drugs. The neighbour was investigated and nothing was found to support Wanda’s accusations, and her story about the Delaware River was discounted since Wanda could not have walked there and back during the eight-minute period she was away. It was speculated that Wanda might have deliberately harmed Melissa because she was jealous of the attention she had been receiving. Wanda was charged with kidnapping, but was found mentally incompetent to stand trial. The charges were dropped and she was sent to live in an institution for mentally disabled individuals. Sadly, after 25 years, there are still no answers about what she did with Melissa McGuinn.

6. Sabrina Aisenberg

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In Valrico, Florida, on the morning of November 24, 1997, Marlene Aisenberg awoke to discover that her four-month-old daughter Sabrina was missing from her crib. A blue and yellow blanket belonging to Sabrina also disappeared along with her. The garage door had been left open during the night, one of the doors to the Aisenberg residence was unlocked, and a blonde hair and unidentified shoe print were found near the crib. At approximately 1:00 AM, a neighbour was awoken by his barking dog and believed he also heard the sound of a baby crying.

While there was some evidence to suggest Sabrina had been abducted, authorities found it suspicious that neither Marlene nor her husband, Steve, heard an intruder entering the house during the night, and the family dog also never reacted. Controversy ensued after authorities decided to bug the Aisenberg home with listening devices and supposedly recorded Marlene and Steve stating that their daughter was dead. The Aisenbergs were both indicted on conspiracy charges in 1999, but the recordings were not audible enough to make out their supposedly incriminating conversation. It was also discovered that investigators had lied to a judge in order to gain permission to bug the Aisenberg residence, so the couple was eventually cleared of all charges. While the Aisenbergs have never officially been ruled out as suspects in their daughter’s disappearance, there is no evidence to suggest they were responsible. Sadly, after more than 15 years, there are still no answers about what happened to Sabrina.

5. Christopher Abeyta

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In the early morning hours of July 15, 1986, Colorado Springs residents Gil and Bernice Abeyta discovered that their seven-month-old son Christopher was missing from his crib. The couple last saw Christopher after putting him to bed at midnight, and the front door had been left unlocked. Some suspicion initially fell upon the parents. Gil and Bernice were in the midst of reconciling after a separation, and this particular night just happened to be the first time in a while that Gil was staying over at their home. However, the Abeytas have never officially been named as suspects in their son’s disappearance, and the investigative efforts of the Colorado Springs police faced heavy criticism since they eventually destroyed most of the evidence in the case.

Christopher’s parents believe he was abducted and claimed to have received numerous hang-up phone calls for six months prior to his disappearance, which immediately came to a halt before resuming months later. These calls were eventually traced to a woman named Emma Bradshaw, whom Gil had been having an affair with. Because she had a prior history of break-ins, Bradshaw is considered the prime suspect, though she has always maintained her innocence. Nearly 27 years later, the Abeyta family maintains a website about Christopher’s disappearance and are currently offering a US$100,000 reward for information that will finally provide them with closure.

4. David Blockett

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David Blockett was only two weeks old on December 11, 1980 when an African-American woman calling herself “Marie Kelly” visited his family’s home in Newport News, Virginia. Kelly told David’s mother, Vanessa, that she was from the Department of Social Services and that they were sponsoring a function for children at a nearby medical centre. She managed to convince Vanessa to let her take David and his two-year-old brother Frederick to the function. Later that afternoon, Frederick was found wandering around alone at a shopping centre. He had a note in his pocket with his name and address on it.

Frederick was returned to his mother, but there was no sign of David. A check with the Department of Social Services revealed that no one named Marie Kelly worked for them, nor did they have any employees matching her description. Once he got older, Frederick had vague recollections of the abduction and seems to remember the woman meeting up with a male accomplice. In a bizarre postscript to this story, two of David’s nephews also wound up being abducted over 30 years later, though they were soon found unharmed. Sadly, the same thing has yet to be said for David himself, and he remains missing.

3. Kamiyah Mobley

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On the morning of July 10, 1998, Shanara Mobley gave birth to a little girl named Kamiyah at University Medical Centre in Jacksonville, Florida. Throughout the day, she had frequent encounters with an unidentified African-American nurse. About eight hours after Kamiyah was born, this nurse said there was a problem with the baby’s temperature and took her out of the room. They apparently left the hospital together because this is the last anyone ever saw of Kamiyah or the nurse.

Even though the woman had worn a nurse’s uniform and an identification badge, the hospital had no record of her working there. It’s speculated that she may have had previous hospital experience since she seemed to have knowledge of medical terminology and the building’s layout. When she was not posing as a nurse, the woman was passing herself off as a member of the Mobley family to the hospital staff, and she frequently asked them when the baby would be leaving the nursery. Shanara eventually sued the hospital over her daughter’s abduction and received a $1.5 million settlement. It’s believed that the unidentified woman was scouting for a child she could abduct and raise as her own. If Kamiyah Mobley is still alive today, she is 15 years old and probably completely unaware of her true identity.

2. Lisa Irwin

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Jeremy Irwin returned to his Kansas City, Missouri home at 4:00 AM on the morning of October 4, 2011, and noticed that his 10-month-old daughter, Lisa, was missing from her crib. Lisa’s mother, Deborah Bradley, claimed she had last seen her after putting her to bed the night before. Jeremy was also surprised to discover that several of his house’s lights were on, the front door was unlocked, Lisa’s bedroom window was open, and three cell phones were missing. Deborah had also gotten drunk that night and soon faced suspicion that she was responsible for Lisa’s disappearance.

Police accused Deborah of failing a lie detector test and had a cadaver dog search the Irwin home. They claimed that the dog turned up the scent of a dead body near Deborah’s bed, but they never took any material from the home for further testing or presented any evidence to support their claim. Lisa’s family believes she was abducted, and this theory has been supported by three witnesses who claimed they saw an unidentified man walking down a road five kilometres (three miles) away from the Irwin home that night, carrying a baby wearing nothing but a diaper. One month after Lisa’s disappearance, Jeremy claimed his debit card was stolen, and in May 2012, it was reportedly used on a website that provides false birth certificates. Authorities have investigated these leads, but have yet to find out what happened to Lisa Irwin.

1. Mary Agnes Moroney

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In 1930, Michael and Catherine Moroney lived in Chicago with their daughters, Anastasia and Mary Agnes, who had just turned two years old. Michael posted an ad for a social services person to help take care of his family, and on May 14, a woman calling herself Julia Otis showed up at their home, claiming she’d been sent by a social worker named Mrs. Henderson. The next day, she offered to take Mary Agnes shopping for clothes, and her parents consented. One day later, the Moroneys would receive a letter from Otis, claiming she had taken Mary Agnes to California and would return the child in two months.

Two weeks later, the Moroneys received another letter, this time from a woman named Alice Henderson. She claimed that Julia Otis was her cousin and had kidnapped Mary Agnes because her own husband and baby had died the year before. The Moroneys never heard from Otis or Henderson again, but authorities believed both notes had the same handwriting. In 1952, a California woman named Mary McClelland came forward and claimed she was Mary Agnes Moroney. She reunited with her family, but there were suspicions that McClelland was not actually Mary Agnes since she did not have the child’s hernia scar, and a doctor claimed to have delivered McClelland the year before Mary Agnes was born. Decades later, after McClelland died, DNA testing confirmed that she was not actually Mary Agnes Moroney.

[Source: Listverse. Edited.]


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Top 10 Richest Thieves
By Serene Hitchcock,
Listverse, 31 August 2013.

When we think about people who steal, we often have a misconception about the person committing the crime. We frequently assume the the thief is poor, perhaps homeless, but that’s a flawed perception. Believe it or not, rich people steal just as frequently as poor people.

10. The Czech Republic President Steals A Pen

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We’ve all pocketed pens without thinking after we’ve used them, especially in the workplace, but that’s not what happened here. Vaclav Klaus stole a jewelled ceremonial pen during a document signing, and the entire thing was caught on tape.

One has to wonder why he would be so brazen to pocket a pen that was clearly reserved for such special occasions, especially while the cameras were rolling. When the president was questioned about his actions, his only defense was that he “takes things all the time,” which seems like a poor line of reasoning.

9. A Celebrity Chef Stole Onions

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Of course, celebrity chefs don’t make as much money as presidents or movie stars, but they still make a lot. And celebrity chef Antony Worral Thompson was caught stealing something that he could easily afford. The famous British chef was arrested last year for stealing onions, cheese, and coleslaw.

What makes the incident more bizarre is that he stole these items while buying hundreds of pounds of champagne. The juxtaposition of having the cash to buy cases of champagne but stealing regular grocery items is staggering. Once the chef was arrested, he expressed remorse and admitted to crying about his choices every night in his room.

8. Egyptian King Steals A Watch

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Why would a king need to steal a watch? Couldn’t he easily buy it or pay someone to buy it for him if he didn’t want to be inconvenienced? For King Farouk of Egypt, it seemed much easier to just take it.

This particular instance makes more sense when the man’s demeanour is explained. Farouk was almost as petulant and temperamental as a child. If he saw something that he wanted, he’d just take it. Ownership made no difference to him. What makes the story more fascinating is that the watch belonged to Winston Churchill.

7. Indian Restaurateur Thinks He’s Robin Hood

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Restaurant owners don’t always do well financially; some make bad investments. But infamous Madhukar Mohandas Prabhakar was notorious for his enormous wealth and his sticky fingers. He even stole from wealthy homes in Mumbai.

Some people aren’t sure how much of his stolen cash lined his pockets and how much of his wealth came from his business. However, it’s safe to say that he was a successful businessman. What’s interesting about this particular thief is that he pulled a bit of a Robin Hood shtick, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. But Prabhakar was still caught and arrested. It seems intent doesn’t save you from the law.

6. Millionaire Kid Steals Makeup

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In some cases, parents don’t give their wealth to their children while they’re still alive. Some are adamant about teaching their children the value of hard work and don’t want to just give them the fruits of their labour. But for millionaire child Caroline Giuliani, this wasn’t the case. She had plenty of her mayor father’s money at her disposal.

In 2010, she was caught stealing a few hundred dollars of makeup from an upscale shop. What’s more, she had the amount to pay for the items in her purse. Unsurprisingly, she only received a slap on the wrist for her actions.

5. A Millionaire Who Stole History

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Farhad Hakimzadeh was an incredibly wealthy and intelligent businessman who was fascinated by cultural history and rare books. Because he was so taken with these artefacts, he apparently thought he had some sort of inherent right to them. Because of this, he decided it wouldn’t be a problem to steal several books from a library’s private collection.

Despite being such a book lover, he had no qualms about destroying many rare casings to expand his own collection. Knowledge should be free, and keeping the books with no intention of returning them - especially when you can afford them - is quite sad.

4. Politician Claims Charity Taxes

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Hearing about corrupt politicians shouldn’t be that surprising; a politician is in the news every other week because of scandalous behaviour, and it seems British politicians aren’t any different. Just ask Frank Cook.

Frank applied for reimbursement for just £5 that he’d donated to charity. He tried to apologize and claimed that it was an honest mistake. But it’s hard to believe that defense when his bank account clearly showed a large sum of money with no explanation.

3. Woman Spends Everyone Else’s Taxes

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The next thief on our list is Rita Crundwell. On top her US$80,000 wages, she decided to embezzle millions of taxpayers’ dollars. Many of these poor people made far less than she did. The fact that she thought that she could take over US$30 million from unsuspecting taxpayers without getting caught is a whole new brand of delusional.

2. Millionaire Steals Credit Card To Buy Pizza

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Millionaire doctor Richard Ludwig decided that he wanted some pizza. This simple desire doesn’t seem like it should deserve much attention, but instead of using some of the US$250 on his person, he paid with a misplaced credit card from a Navy veteran.

When questioned about using the card instead of money that belonged to him, he simply responded “what else was I supposed to do but use it?” The complete lack of sense and human decency in that statement is absurd. He obviously knew the card wasn’t his, but he decided to use it anyway.

1. The Lego Bandit

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Thomas Langenbach, a wealthy tech worker by day, became a seller of Legos on eBay by night. That sounds fine and dandy, but he would buy (sometimes steal) the toys for extremely discounted prices at Target, switch the barcodes, and sell them for a profit. He did this with thousands of toys.

His illegal side business made him a ton of money that he didn’t need; he was still working his lucrative day job. When the police raided his house and found the toys, Langenbach explained that he had a compulsion that he “couldn’t really explain.” He just had to sell Legos.

[Source: Listverse. Edited.]


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Space Pictures This Week: Mars Mini-Eclipse, Cosmic Crash
By Andrew Fazekas,
National Geographic News, 30 August 2013.

A new-born star announces its arrival, a storm brews off Africa, and galaxies seem to collide in this week's roundup of space pictures.

1. Chain of Storms

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Looking like a row of planes taxiing on a runway, a chain of brewing storms on the coast of West Africa is ready for take-off into the Atlantic Ocean in this photo taken by the Meteosat-9 weather satellite on August 29.

Every year from mid-August until October the hurricane season in the Northern Hemisphere kicks into high gear as the trade winds on either side of the Equator converge. The combination of heat from the African continent and the tropical moisture from the ocean creates the perfect recipe for the formation of tropical storms.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, this year's hurricane season is on track to be more active than normal. (Related: "Improved Forecasting Will Help Track Hurricane Season.")

2. Violent Star Birth

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A new-born star announces its arrival by emitting a pair of colourful, high-speed jets of gas into space in this high-resolution image by a new giant radio telescope array called the Atacama Large Millimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) in the high-altitude desert of Chile.

Located some 1,400 light-years from Earth, this baby star, known as HH46/47, sits near a giant dark cloud of gas and dust that provided the seed material from which it likely formed only a few hundred thousand years ago.

The jets of gas spew out at speeds that have been clocked at nearly 620,000 miles (a million kilometres) an hour. The shockwave from these jets ploughs into the gas and dust that surrounds the baby star-making the material light up like neon.

3. Aurora Arc

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Like a ghostly green rainbow arcing across the late-night sky, a northern lights display burns bright above a lake in Estonia in a picture submitted to National Geographic's Your Shot.

Streams of solar wind made up of charged particles coming off the surface of the sun slam into Earth's magnetic field, sparking auroral displays in the upper atmosphere.

The more directly these solar winds hit our planet, the more intense the sky show.

4. Medusa Nebula

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Like its namesake mythological monster, the Medusa nebula appears to sport a serpentine crown in this photo taken with a 27-hour-long exposure through a backyard telescope in Huntsville, Alabama. (See nebula pictures.)

Some 1,500 light-years distant, the hauntingly beautiful planetary nebula represents the final remnants of a long-dead star. The glowing cloud of gas and dust is constantly expanding and stretches four light-years across.

5. Himalaya Peak

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Like a crown of cosmic jewels, a star-studded sky adorns Annapurna South, one of the highest Himalaya peaks in central Nepal.

"I was very lucky to have this clear night view," photographer Marcia Pradipti said with her submission to National Geographic's Your Shot.

6. Sculpting Star Clouds

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Blasts of intense radiation emanating from some of the most massive stars known wreak havoc with the surrounding gas and dust in this stunning infrared view from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope.

Located some 8,000 light-years from Earth, the Eta Carinae star system shines with a power equivalent to that of five million suns.

The outflow of energy from just two monster stars at the centre of the glowing cloud sculpts giant pillars of dust, while carving out enormous cavities in the surrounding nebula.

7. Martian Peek-a-Boo

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The largest of the red planet's two moons, Phobos, glides across the face of the sun as seen in this sequence of snapshots taken from the Martian surface by the NASA Curiosity rover on August 17.

This unique annular solar eclipse from Mars, photographed using the one-ton rover's telephoto-lens camera attached to the top of its mast, is expected to help refine orbital calculations for the moon.

8. Cosmic Crash

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What looks like a nearby cosmic head-on collision between two galaxies is actually just an optical illusion. The sprinkling of stars at the centre of this Hubble Space Telescope image is actually a dwarf galaxy lying some 16 million light-years distant and filled with a few billion stars.

However, the bright twinkling stars scattered throughout the above photo are much closer, lying well within the border of our own much larger Milky Way galaxy, which contains some 400 billion suns.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited.]


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Five Incredible - and Real - Mind-Control Applications
By Brian Handwerk,
National Geographic News, 29 August 2013.

Scientists achieved the first remote human-to-human brain interface this week, when Rajesh Rao sent a brain signal over the Internet that moved the hand of colleague Andrea Stocco - even though Stocco was sitting all the way across the University of Washington's campus.

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First remote human-to-human brain interface. Source: University of Washington.

Using one human brain to direct another person's body via the Internet was an amazing breakthrough. But other feats of mind control are already realities, particularly in the realm of human machine interfaces (HMIs).

Here are some amazing examples of what our brains can already do.

1. Compose and Play Music

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Yes, music composition always took place in the brain. But now musicians might be able to eliminate the need for tools and interfaces like sheet music - or even playing an instrument - by simply creating music directly with their thoughts.

Electroencephalography (EEG) headwear devices record the electric signals that are produced when the brain is at work and can connect them wirelessly to a computer. Their wearers can also train their minds to associate a set of EEG brain signals with a specific task.

For example, thinking about pushing a button on the computer screen produces a brainwave pattern that computer software can then recognize and associate with that task.

To make music, such thoughts are associated with notes or sounds to create a language of musical thought that's produced directly from the brain. With this established, users can simply think musical scores to life and play them via the computer.

For an example of the way the mind can create music and other forms of art, check out the MiND ensemble (Music in Neural Dimensions) from the University of Michigan [see also above video].

2. Screen Mobile Phone Calls

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Necomimi Cat Ears. Source: Necomimi.

Like a tough personal secretary, Ruggero Scorcioni's Good Times app filters the incoming calls of busy mobile phone users by simply monitoring the state of the user's brain.

Earlier this year, Scorcioni won an AT&T Mobile App Hackathon with the iOS app, which uses the cuddly Necomimi Cat Ears brainwave-reading headset to monitor brain activity and reroute calls to voicemail when it perceives that the user's brain is busy with other tasks. If the user's brain is in a receptive state, it lets the call through.

With US$30,000 in Hackathon prize money in hand, Scorcioni is fine-tuning his prototype, which he views as a first step in the way our brain states might directly control mobile devices and our individual environments. Someday it might enable more brain-driven mobile device features that require no user input, like his Good Tunes concept, which would read brainwaves and then play music best matching the wearer's personal preferences for their current brain state.

3. Create a 3-D Object

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Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset. Source: Emotiv.

Can wishing for something make it so? Well, not quite. But a Chilean company has announced the first object to be created by thought alone - paired with the growing power of the latest 3-D printing machines.

George Laskowsky, the chief technical officer of the Santiago-based startup Thinker Thing, created the first-ever such object in January 2012.

The Thinker Thing system employs an Emotiv EPOC EEG headset to map its wearer's brainwaves. Then the company's own software, called Emotional Evolutionary Design, displays "building block" shapes on a computer screen.

From a basic beginning, the shapes change and "evolve," while the user's emotional positive and negative reactions to each change are monitored by the headset. As the software processes brain feedback, the well-received shapes and changes are kept and expanded, while the disliked ones fade away. The process is repeated until a final object is produced according to the thought preferences of the designer.

The company's Monster Dreamer project gave school kids the opportunity to use the software to create the monster of their dreams, or nightmares, in a matter of minutes.

4. Drive a Wheelchair - And a Car

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RIKEN thought-controlled wheelchair, via GadgetLite.

For the disabled, the ability to move about using the power of their minds could be life changing. To that end, scientists have worked for years on wheelchairs and other devices that could restore mobility to those who had lost control of their own bodies but still had sharp minds.

By 2009, Japanese scientists at Toyota and research lab RIKEN announced a thought-controlled wheelchair that used an EEG sensor cap to capture brainwaves and turn them into directional commands in just 125 thousandths of a second - with 95 percent accuracy.

At Lausanne, Switzerland's Federal Institute of Technology, scientists have added "shared control" to the concept. Their chair's software analyzes the surrounding area's cluttered environment and blends that information with the driver's brain commands to avoid problems like collisions with objects.

The system also eases the strain of command because users needn't continually instruct the chair - the software processes a single directional command and automatically repeats it as often as needed to navigate the space.

German engineers at the Free University of Berlin have attempted to take this concept on the open road with a car that can be partially controlled by the driver's thoughts. The team took an autonomous Volkswagen Passat, one of the emerging breed of driverless vehicles, and outfitted it with a computer system and software designed to work with Emotiv's commercially available EEG brain-scanning headset.

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The BrainDriver, via Wired.

Drivers were trained to produce recognizable thought commands, like "turn left," by manipulating a virtual cube on a screen. The on-board computer then analyzed and converted those thoughts to commands recognized by the car itself each time they were thought by the driver. (See the successful results here.)

The "BrainDriver" application is not roadworthy yet, the team cautions on their website. "But on the long run, human machine interfaces like this could bear huge potential in combination with autonomous driving - for example, when it comes to decide which way you want to take on a crossroad, while the autonomous cab drives you home."

5. "Bionic" Limbs

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Image Source: DARPA

In some instances, human machine interfaces are becoming part of the human body. One new prosthetic even provides a sense of "touch" like that of a natural arm, because it interfaces with the wearer's neural system by splicing to residual nerves in the partial limb.

The prosthetic sends sensory signals to the wearer's brain that produce a lifelike "feel," allowing users to operate it by touch rather than by sight alone. This ability enables tasks many take for granted, like removing something from inside a grocery bag, and knowing how hard to grip items with the prosthetic hand.

Researchers at Case Western Reserve University, now working with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), developed the prosthetic, which can be seen in action here and was unveiled in May 2013. DARPA is a leader in the development of advanced prosthetics, in part because more than 2,000 U.S. Service members have undergone amputations since 2000.

Another DARPA-backed prosthetic arm flips this script by efficiently transmitting information from brain to arm, rather than vice versa, through a technique called targeted muscle re-innervation. The procedure rewires nerves from amputated limbs to enable more natural brain control of the prosthetic - and make possible some amazing abilities.

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Screengrab YouTube

In this video taken at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, former Army Staff Sgt. Glen Lehman [pictured above], who was wounded in Iraq, demonstrates his ability to manipulate the arm with his mind, drink coffee, and bounce a tennis ball with a prosthetic limb. In some cases, experts say, prosthetics can already offer more functionality than heavily damaged human limbs.

[Source: National Geographic News. Edited. Some images added.]