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New algorithm enables MIT cheetah robot to run and jump, untethered, across grass

September 16, 2014

MIT cheetah robot

MIT researchers have developed an algorithm for bounding that they’ve successfully implemented in a robotic cheetah.

In experiments on an indoor track, the robot sprinted up to 10 mph, even continuing to run after clearing a hurdle. The MIT researchers estimate that the current version of the robot may eventually reach speeds of up to 30 mph — half the top speed of the natural cheetah, the fastest land animal on Earth.… read more

Competing teams announced for $1 million prize incentive to create an artificial liver

September 16, 2014

The U.S. organ wait list has grown rapidly, while the number of organ donors has stagnated --- but the true need is almost 10x larger than the official waiting list suggests: 900,000 annual deaths are preventable by liver transplantation (credit: New Organ)

New Organ — a collective initiative for tissue engineering and regenerative medicine — announced today (Oct. 16) the initial six teams competing for the $1 million New Organ Liver Prize, a global prize competition launched in December 2013 and  sponsored by the Methuselah Foundation, a biomedical charity.

The award will go to “the first team that creates a regenerative or bioengineered solution that keeps a large animal… read more

Camouflaging metamaterials create the LCD color display of the future

The secret: precision placement of plasmonic aluminum nanorods
September 16, 2014

Rice University’s new color display technology is capable of producing dozens of colors, including rich red, green and blue tones comparable to those found in high-definition LCD displays.<br />
CREDIT: J. Olson/Rice University

The quest to create camouflaging metamaterials that can “see” colors and automatically blend into the background is one step closer to reality, thanks to a breakthrough color-display technology unveiled this week by Rice University‘s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP).

The new full-color display technology uses aluminum nanorods to create the vivid red, blue and green hues found in today’s top-of-the-line LCD televisions and monitors.

The technology is… read more

How a quantum computer could defeat a classical computer

September 16, 2014

Schematic of a boson-sampling device (credit: A. P. Lund et al./PRL)

The first definitive defeat for a classical computer by a quantum computer could one day be achieved with a quantum device that runs an algorithm known as “boson sampling,” recently developed by researchers at MIT.

Boson sampling uses single photons of light and optical circuits to take samples from an exponentially large probability distribution, which has been proven to be extremely difficult for classical computers.

The… read more

Now you can work in your sleep

September 15, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

Parts of your brain continue to function when you’re sleeping, researchers at Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and the University of Cambridge have discovered.

They recorded the EEG (brain waves) of human participants while they were awake after they were instructed to classify spoken words as either animals or objects by pressing a button, using the right hand for animals and the left hand for… read more

A soft ‘wearable robot’ exosuit to increase stamina for soldiers and civilians

September 14, 2014

The Mobility Enhancing Soft Exosuit, a soft wearable robot made from lightweight and flexible materials (credit: Harvard Biodesign Lab)

DARPA has awarded a $2.9 million contract to the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University to further develop the Soft Exosuit, a “wearable robot.”

It will be worn comfortably under clothing  to enable soldiers to walk longer distances, reduce fatigue, and minimize risk of injury when carrying heavy loads.

The development is part of DARPA’s Warrior Web program, which seeks to develop technologies to prevent and… read more

New low-cost, ultra-sensitive biosensor uses diatoms and nanoparticles

September 12, 2014

Ultra-sensitive immunoassay biosensor using diatom biosilica with self-assembled plasmonic nanoparticles (credit: Jing Yang et al./Journal of Biophotonics)

Oregon State University researchers combined diatoms (a type of single-celled photosynthetic algae) with self-assembled plasmonic nanoparticles to create a low-cost sensor capable of detecting miniscule amounts of protein or other biomarkers.

Optical biosensors are important in health care for such applications as detecting levels of blood glucose or the presence of antibodies. They are also used for chemical detection in environmental protection.

Existing biosensors often require high-cost… read more

Artificial membranes form bio-silicon interfaces

Potential uses include detecting bacterial contaminants in food, toxic pollution in the environment, and dangerous diseases
September 12, 2014

Organic and inorganic materials grouped together to bridge the gap between biology and physics (credit: S.E.Gutierrez-Maldonado/FCV)

A group of scientists in Chile has created* artificial biomembranes (mimicking those found in living organisms) on silicon surfaces, a step toward creating bio-silicon interfaces, where biological “sensor” molecules can be printed onto a cheap silicon chip with integrated electronic circuits.

Described in The Journal of Chemical Physics from AIP Publishing, the artificial membranes have potential applications such as detecting bacterial contaminants in food, toxic pollution in… read more

Buckyballs and diamondoids combine to form basic electronic device

September 12, 2014

Illustration of a buckydiamondoid molecule under a scanning tunneling microscope (STM). In this study the STM made images of the buckydiamondoids and probed their electronic properties. (Credit: Stanford University)

Scientists have combined two unconventional forms of carbon — one shaped like a soccer ball, the other a tiny diamond — to make a rectifier (which conducts electricity in only one direction).

This tiny electronic component could play a key role in shrinking chip components down to the size of molecules to enable faster, more powerful devices.

“We wanted to see what new, emergent properties might come out… read more

Could ‘solid’ light compute previously unsolvable problems?

An "artificial atom" makes photons behave like exotic matter
September 12, 2014

Oscillations of photons create an image of frozen light. At first, photons in the experiment flow easily between two superconducting sites, producing the large waves shown at left. After a time, the scientists cause the light to 'freeze,' trapping the photons in place. Fast oscillations on the right of the image are evidence of the new trapped behavior. (Credit: Princeton University)

Researchers at Princeton University have “crystallized” light. They are not shining light through crystal — they are actually transforming light into crystal, as part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors.

The researchers locked together photons so that they became fixed in place. “It’s something that we have never seen before,” said Andrew Houck, an associate professor of electrical engineering and… read more

Cool electrons enable transistors with low energy consumption

September 12, 2014

A chip, which contains nanoscale structures that enable electron cooling at room temperature, is pictured (credit: UT Arlington)

UT Arlington researchers have discovered a way to cool electrons to -228 °C at room temperature, which could lead to a new type of transistor that can operate at extremely low energy consumption levels.

The process involves passing electrons through a quantum well to cool them and keep them from heating. The team detailed its research in Nature Communications (open access) on Wednesday, Sept. 10.

“We… read more

New synthetic gene circuits can perform complex bio-logic tasks

Programming synthetic cells for tasks such as production of biofuels, environmental remediation, and treatments for human diseases
September 11, 2014

Scientists at Rice University and the University of Kansas Medical Center are using multiple chimeric transcription factors as logic circuits to perform complex tasks in cells. The circuits are triggered when modular protein domains sense the presence of specific chemical combinations in a cell. (Credit: Bennett Lab/Rice University)

Researchers at Rice University and the University of Kansas Medical Center are making genetic circuits that can perform complex tasks by swapping protein building blocks.

The modular genetic circuits,  which are engineered from parts of otherwise unrelated bacterial genomes, can be set up to handle multiple chemical inputs simultaneously with a minimum of interference from their neighbors.

The work, reported in the American Chemical… read more

Reprogramming your brain with transcranial magnetic stimulation

September 11, 2014

A mouse (happy and awake) receiving LI-rTMS (credit: University of Western Australia)

Weak repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) applied to mice can shift abnormal neural connections to more normal locations in the brain, researchers from The University of Western Australia and the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in France have demonstrated.

The discovery has implications for treatment of nervous system disorders related to abnormal brain organization, such as depression, epilepsy, and tinnitus.

To better… read more

’1 in 5 chance’ Ebola will spread to the US in September

Ebola cases "increasing exponentially ... many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming 3 weeks" --- World Health Organization
September 10, 2014

Air traffic connections from West African countries to the rest of the world (credit: PLOS Currents: Outbreaks)

The number of new cases in Liberia is “increasing exponentially,” according to a statement Monday by the World Health Organization (WHO), and “many thousands of new cases are expected in Liberia over the coming 3 weeks.”

There’s also a 20% chance that that the Ebola epidemic (as it is now called) will reach the U.S. by the end of September, according to experts writing in… read more

First direct brain-to-brain communication between human subjects

EEG and TMS signals enable first successful brain-to-brain transmission
September 10, 2014

BCI-CBI ft.

An international team of neuroscientists and robotics engineers have demonstrated the first direct remote brain-to-brain communication between two humans located 5,000 miles away from each other and communicating via the Internet, as reported in a paper recently published in PLOS ONE (open access).

In India, researchers encoded two words (“hola” and “ciao”) as binary strings and presented them as a series of cues on a computer monitor. They recorded… read more

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Latest blog posts

Ask Ray | Article on integrating digital media into children’s lives by my wife Sonya Kurzweil, PhD

August 21, 2014

(credit: iStockphoto)

Dear readers,

I want to share some articles written by my wife, Sonya Kurzweil, PhD who is a psychologist in private practice and clinical instructor in Psychology at Harvard Medical School. Sonya’s medical expertise is women, children, parents and families.

She is interested in the way that digital media can be integrated into the lives of children and teens.

Her recent essays on parenting and digital technology… read more

Are copyrighted works only by and for humans?

The copyright Planet of the Apes and robots
August 20, 2014 by Mark A. Fischer

Macaca nigra self-portrait (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Why should humans own all the world’s copyrights? The question is prompted by a photograph that’s made worldwide news. In Indonesia, a female crested black macaque monkey picked up a camera owned by photographer David Slater.

I won’t focus much on the story of the monkey and her selfie because that topic has already been well-discussed in the media. Yet the story sets the table for more… read more

‘The end of work’ with Ray Kurzweil, Andrew McAfee, Chris Lydon [UPDATE: podcast available]

July 31, 2014

Radio Open Source - The End of Work - one

The jobless economy: a fully automated, engineered, robotic system that doesn’t need you, or me either. Anything we can do, machines can do better — surgery, warfare, farming, finance. What’s to do? Shall we smash the machines, or go to the beach, or finally learn to play the piano?

Economists predict that 50% of US jobs could be automated in a decade or two. Big fun show with… read more

Ask Ray | Can technology help us find love?

July 29, 2014

(credit: iStock)

Ray,

The promises of accelerating technology are impressive, possibly eliminating disease, poverty, and even death.

But I wonder what hope there is for the lonely. Personally, I’m approaching middle age and have never been on a date. And I know I’m not the only one out there in this situation.

Is there anything technology can do in the near or far future to help people like me… read more

Ask Ray | The incredible unlikelihood of being

July 24, 2014

(credit: iStock)

Hello Ray,

The universe existed several billion years before humans were conscious, and will exist several billion years after we are conscious.

So, it is statistically improbable for the chronological timeline of the universe to be located at this precise moment, when we are conscious, that is, an 80 year lifespan within some 30 billion years.

Are you aware of any theories, besides survivorship bias from statistics, that… read more

Wait six years to buy your next car

July 23, 2014 by Randal O'Toole

A demonstrator car with two Lidar laser sensors hanging on the front bumper, five radar sensors hiding behind the fenders, and two optical sensors with 360-degree fields of view on the roof. Click image for a larger view. (Credit: Harbrick)

You’ll be able to buy a car that can drive itself under most conditions, with an option for override by a human driver, in 2020, according to the median estimate in a survey of 217 attendees of the 2014 Automated Vehicles Symposium. By 2030, the group estimated, you’ll be able to buy a car that is so fully automated it won’t even have the option for a human driver.… read more

Wild ride ahead: glimpse at humanity’s long range future

July 23, 2014 by Richard (Dick) Pelletier

A Type III civilization can harness all the energy of a galaxy (credit: ESA)

Imagine if you could take an exotic vacation billions of light years from Earth, peek in on the dinosaurs’ first-hand, or jump into a parallel universe where another you is living a more exciting life than yours — and you could swap places if you like.

For years, scientists have bandied about radical ideas that future humans will one day harness wormholes to zip across the universe at faster-than-light… read more

Ask Ray | Jewish scholar says robots will achieve human level intelligence

July 16, 2014

(credit: iStock)

Dear readers,

I recently saw this article by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency and wanted to share it with you.

I have an ongoing interest in the Turing test — a competition that gauges whether an artificial intelligence is capable of human level conversation.

There was a recent test of a chatbot named Eugene Goostman, and I’ve written my reaction to its test results.

This article is… read more

Ask Ray | There are already many cyborgs among us

July 15, 2014

(credit: iStock)

Dear readers,

Check out this article on NBC News. I discussed this topic at Time’s 2003 The Future of Life Summit, during the session “The next frontier.” My full dialog is below. My point was “there are already many cyborgs among us.”

Ray Kurzweil

NBC | “Cyborgs among us: human biohackers embed chips in their bodies”

related viewing from NBC:read more

Ask Ray | E.M. Forster’s 1909 story ‘The Machine Stops’ predicts the web, tablets and artificial intelligence

June 30, 2014

The Machine Stops - book cover front

Dear readers,

A remarkable foreshadowing of the internet, tablet computers and artificial intelligence from a century ago: E.M. Forster’s 1909 short story “The Machine Stops.”

Ray Kurzweil

Wikipedia | “The Machine Stops” is a science fiction short story by E. M. Forster. After initial publication in The Oxford and Cambridge Review in November 1909, the story was republished in Forster’s The Eternal Moment and Otherread more

Ask Ray | US Supreme Court acknowledges that personal space has merged with the digital world

June 28, 2014 by Ray Kurzweil

(credit: iStock)

Dear readers,

My friend — of 50 years! — Mark Bergmann, brought this recent quote from US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts to my attention:

“Modern cell phones are such a pervasive and insistent part of daily life that the proverbial visitor from Mars might conclude they were an important feature of human anatomy,” said Roberts, commenting in the recent Supreme Court ruling on cell phones warrants.… read more

Google I/O 2014 | video: Ray Kurzweil presents “Biologically Inspired Models of Intelligence”

June 20, 2014

IO 2014

Google I/O 2014 | Ray Kurzweil: “Biologically Inspired Models of Intelligence,” filmed June 25, 2014

Google | For decades Ray Kurzweil has explored how artificial intelligence can enrich and expand human capabilities. In his latest book How to Create a Mind, he takes this exploration to the next step: reverse-engineering the brain to understand precisely how it works, then applying that knowledge to create intelligent machines.

In… read more

Ask Ray | Music videos on living forever ** updated **

June 19, 2014

(credit: Oasis)

Dear readers,

I enjoyed these two hit songs on the modern theme of living forever. I want to share these popular music videos, and their concepts.

Ultimately, their lyrics move toward a perspective that reflects my own optimistic, positive outlook on what is possible.

The choruses include the phrases “Move towards the future” and “I want to live forever, now’s the time to find out.” Both songs reiterate:… read more

Ask Ray | Response to announcement of chatbot Eugene Goostman passing the Turing test

June 10, 2014 by Ray Kurzweil

Eugene Goostman chatbot screenshot (credit:

On June 8, 2014, The University of Reading announced that a computer program “has passed the Turing test for the first time.”

University of Reading professor Kevin Warwick, PhD, described it this way:
“Some will claim that the test has already been passed. The words ‘Turing test’ have been applied to similar competitions around the world. However, this event involved more simultaneous comparison tests than ever before, was independently… read more

TED Talk 2014 | Ray Kurzweil: “Get ready for hybrid thinking” video now playing

June 4, 2014

TED 30 years logo

TED | Two hundred million years ago, our mammal ancestors developed a new brain feature: the neocortex. This stamp-sized piece of tissue, wrapped around a brain the size of a walnut, is the key to what humanity has become.

Now, futurist Ray Kurzweil suggests, we should get ready for the next big leap in brain power, as we tap into the computing power in the cloud.… read more

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