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Synthetic biology on ordinary paper: a new operating system

A tiny paper color test for a strain-specific Ebola virus, antibiotic-resistant bacteria, or other pathogens --- no lab required
October 24, 2014

Wyss Institute scientists have embedded effective synthetic gene networks in pocket-sized slips of paper. An array of RNA–activated sensors uses visible color changing proteins to indicate presence of a targeted RNA, capable of identifying pathogens such as antibiotic–resistant bacteria and strain–specific Ebola virus. (Credit: Harvard's Wyss Institute)

Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering announced Thursday (Oct. 23) a way to allow complex cellular recognition reactions to proceed outside of living cells, using pocket-sized slips of paper.

Imagine inexpensive, shippable, and accurate test kits using a pocket-sized paper diagnostic tool using saliva or a drop of blood to identify specific disease or infection — a feat that could be accomplished anywhere in the world, within minutes and… read more

This new ultrathin, energy-efficient 3D LCD display technology could be in your future TV or flexible e-book

Images stay on for years without power
October 24, 2014

In this concept of a LCD display, light is twisted in different directions to make the image appear three-dimensional. (Credit: Abhishek Kumar Srivastava)

Researchers from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology have invented an ultra-thin LCD screen capable of displaying images without a sustained power source and in 3D, making it a compact, energy-efficient way to display visual information.

In a traditional liquid crystal display (LCD), liquid crystal molecules are sandwiched between polarized glass plates. Electrodes pass current through the apparatus, influencing the orientation of the liquid crystals inside and… read more

Magnetic mirrors reflect light more efficiently

Could lead to more powerful solar cells, lasers, and other optoelectronic devices
October 24, 2014

Artist's impression of a comparison between a magnetic mirror with cube-shaped resonators (left) and a standard metallic mirror (right). The incoming and outgoing electric field of light (shown as alternating red and white bands) illustrates that the magnetic mirror retains light's original electrical signature while a standard metallic mirror reverses it upon reflection. (Credit: Authors)

Sandia National Laboratories scientists have created a new type of mirror that reflects infrared light by using an unusual magnetic property of a non-metallic metamaterial, instead of a reflective material.

By placing nanoscale antennas at or very near the surface of these “magnetic mirrors,” scientists are able to capture and harness electromagnetic radiation in ways that have potential in new classes of chemical sensors, solar cells, lasers, and other… read more

Ultra-high-resolution movies of live 3D biomolecules now possible with new microscope

October 23, 2014

A single HeLa cell in metaphase, imaged by lattice light sheet microscope. Growing microtubule endpoints and tracks are color coded by growth phase lifetime Credit: Betzig Lab, HHMI/Janelia Research Campus, Mimori-Kiyosue Lab, RIKEN Center for Developmental Biology)

A new imaging platform called a “lattice light sheet” developed by Nobel laureate Eric Betzig and colleagues at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus is a significant leap forward for light microscopy. It captures high-resolution images rapidly and minimizes damage to cells, so it can image the three-dimensional activity of molecules, cells, and embryos in fine detail over longer periods than was previously possible, according to… read more

Will cosmic rays threaten Mars One, other deep-space astronaut projects?

October 23, 2014

Artist's rendition of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the moon. The CRaTER telescope is seen pointing out at the bottom right center of the LRO spacecraft. (Credit: Chris Meaney/NASA)

Crewed missions to Mars such as Mars One may face dangerous levels of cosmic rays (energetic particles), according to a new paper in the journal Space Weather by University of New Hampshire (UNH) scientists.

This is due to a recent highly abnormal and extended lack of solar activity, resulting in extremely low densities and magnetic field strengths in the solar wind.

This results in a serious reduction in the… read more

New 3D printing algorithms speed production, reduce waste

October 23, 2014

New software algorithms reduce the time and material needed to produce objects with 3-D printers. Here, the wheel on the left was produced with conventional software and the one on the right with the new algorithms. (Credit: Purdue University photo/Bedrich Benes)

Purdue University researchers have developed two software algorithms for trimming time and material, reducing 3D-printing time by up to 30 percent and the amound of support material by up to 65 percent.

The new PackMerger algorithm works by printing a project in segments that can fit into the printing tray and later be glued together.

Maximum packing density

The algorithm determines how to pack the most elements… read more

Paralyzed man walks, thanks to pioneering cell transplanation

October 22, 2014

BBC | Watch Darek Fidyka walk with the aid of a frame

Darek Fidyka, who was paralyzed from the chest down following a knife attack, can now walk, using a frame, thanks to a pioneering cell transplantation treatment developed by scientists at University College London (UCL) and applied by surgeons at Wroclaw University Hospital, Poland.

The technique, developed by UK research team leader Professor Geoff Raisman, Chair of Neural Regeneration at the UCL Institute of Neurology, involved implanting … read more

‘Let’s create the OS of life’

October 22, 2014

OS Fund

On Monday, Bryan Johnson, the Braintree founder who bootstrapped and then sold the company to eBay for $800M, announced he used his own capital to launch a $100M “OS Fund.”

The fund’s charter is to invest in entrepreneurs, scientists, and inventors who aim to benefit humanity by rewriting the operating systems of life, Johnson says.

OS Fund

As Fortune reports,… read more

Transparent graphene-based sensors open new window into the brain

October 21, 2014

A blue light shines through a clear implantable medical sensor onto a brain model. See-through sensors developed by UW-Madison engineers, should help neural researchers better view brain activity. (Photo credit:  Justin Williams research group)

University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers have developing invisible implantable medical sensor microarrays to allow for seeing brain tissue hidden by implants.

The researchers chose graphene because it allows the electronic circuit elements to be transparent across a large spectrum — from ultraviolet to deep infrared. “It is soft and flexible, and a good tradeoff between transparency, strength and conductivity,” says Zhenqiang (Jack) Ma, a professor of electrical and computer engineering… read more

‘Hidden brain signatures’ of consciousness in vegetative state patients discovered

October 21, 2014

Brain networks in two behaviourally-similar vegetative patients (left and middle), but one of whom imagined playing tennis (middle panel), alongside a healthy adult (right panel) (Credit: Srivas Chennu)

Scientists in Cambridge, England have found hidden signatures in the brains of people in a vegetative state that point to networks that could support consciousness — even when a patient appears to be unconscious and unresponsive. The study could help doctors identify patients who are aware despite being unable to communicate.

Although unable to move and respond, some patients in a vegetative state are able to carry out tasks such… read more

Beyond LEDs: brighter, new energy-saving flat-panel lights based on carbon nanotubes

October 20, 2014

This image shows a planar light source device from the front. (Credit: N.Shimoi/Tohoku University)

Scientists from Tohoku University in Japan have developed a new type of energy-efficient flat light source, based on carbon nanotubes, with very low power consumption of around 0.1 Watt-hours of operation — about a hundred times lower than that of an LED.

In the journal Review of Scientific Instruments, the researchers detail the fabrication and optimization of the device, which is based on a phosphor screen and single-walled carbon nanotubes… read more

A tiny ultrasound-powered chip to serve as medical device

October 20, 2014

Stanford engineers can already power this prototype medical implant chip without wires by using ultrasound. Now they want to make it much smaller. (Credit: Arbabian Lab / Stanford School of Engineering)

Stanford engineers are developing a way to send power — safely and wirelessly — to “smart chips” in the body that are programmed to perform medical tasks and report back the results.

The idea is to get rid of wires and batteries, which would make the implant too big or clumsy.

Their approach involves beaming ultrasound at a tiny device inside the body designed to do three things:… read more

Hagel orders formation of military Expeditionary Ebola Support Team

October 19, 2014

USAMRIIDsoldiers

On Sunday (Oct. 18), U.S. Secretary of Defense  Chuck Hagel ordered his Northern Command Commander, Gen. Chuck Jacoby, to “prepare and train a 30-person expeditionary medical support team that could, if required, provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals in the United States.”

The team will consist of 20 critical care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease, and five trainers in infectious disease protocols.

Team members will… read more

Bio-inspired ‘nano-cocoons’ trick cancer cells into accepting drug delivery

A less-toxic DNA-based drug delivery system
October 17, 2014

This image illustrates how the nano-cocoon system works. (Credit: Zhen Gu)

Biomedical engineering researchers have developed a drug delivery system consisting of nanoscale “cocoons” made of DNA that target cancer cells and trick the cells into absorbing the cocoon before unleashing anticancer drugs.

The work was done by researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“This drug delivery system is DNA-based, which means it is biocompatible and less toxic to patients… read more

How to build layered 3D graphene-based materials

October 17, 2014

Electron microscopy images of the porous graphene-based structure created by diffusion driven layer-by-layer assembly (Credit: Kyoto University)

Researchers from the Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences (iCeMS) at Kyoto University have developed a novel but simple technique called “diffusion driven layer-by-layer assembly” to construct graphene into porous three-dimensional structures for applications in devices such as batteries and supercapacitors.

Their study was recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

The problem they addressed is the difficulty of piecing together graphene sheets into useful larger structures. The researchers… 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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