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A high-efficiency, sustainable process using solar and carbon dioxide to produce methane for natural gas

Replaces fossil fuel with solar and uses C02 instead of generating it
September 1, 2015

Artificial photosynthesis used to produce renewable molecular hydrogen for synthesizing carbon dioxide into methane. (credit: Berkeley Lab)

A team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has developed a hybrid system that produces hydrogen and uses it (via microbes) to synthesize carbon dioxide into methane, the primary constituent of natural gas.

“We can expect an electrical-to-chemical efficiency of better than 50 percent and a solar-to-chemical energy conversion efficiency of 10 percent if our system is coupled with state-of-art solar panel and electrolyzer,”… read more

Magnetic fields provide a lower-power, more secure wireless body network

September 1, 2015

This is a prototype of the magnetic field human body communication, developed in Mercier's Energy-Efficient Microsystems Lab at UC San Diego, consists of magnetic-field-generating coils wrapped around three parts of the body, including the head, arm and leg. (credit: Jacobs School of Engineering, UC San Diego)

A new wireless communication technique that works by sending magnetic signals through the human body could offer a lower power and more secure way to communicate information between wearable electronic devices than Bluetooth, according to electrical engineers at the University of California, San Diego.

While this work is still a proof-of-concept demonstration, researchers envision developing it into an ultra low power wireless system that can easily transmit… read more

Lack of sleep connected to catching a cold, new research confirms

If you sleep six hours a night or less, you are 4 times more likely to catch a cold
September 1, 2015

(Credit: iStock)

If you sleep six hours a night or less a night, you are 4.2 times more likely to catch a cold (five hours or less, 4.5 times more likely) compared to those who sleep more than seven hours in a night.

That’s the finding of a study by  Carnegie Mellon University’s Sheldon Cohen, the Robert E. Doherty University Professor of Psychology in the… read more

World’s most powerful, largest digital camera will image 37 billion stars and galaxies

3.2-gigapixel digital camera will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights, producing 15 Terabytes of data
September 1, 2015

LSST ft

The Department of Energy has approved the start of construction for a 3.2-gigapixel digital camera — the world’s largest — at the heart of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), revealing unprecedented details of the universe and helping unravel some of its greatest mysteries.

Assembled at the DOE’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, the camera will be the eye of LSST.

Starting in… read more

Older people in Germany and England getting smarter, but not fitter

September 1, 2015

smarter not fitter

People over age 50 are scoring better on cognitive tests than people of the same age did in the past — a trend that could be linked to higher education rates and increased use of technology in our daily lives, according to a new study published in an open-access paper in the journal PLOS ONE. But the study also showed that average physical health of the older population has declined.… read more

How mass extinctions can accelerate robot evolution

August 31, 2015

At the start of the simulation, a biped robot controlled by a computationally evolved brain stands upright on a 16 meter by 16 meter surface. The simulation proceeds until the robot falls or until 15 seconds have elapsed. (credit: Joel Lehman)

Robots evolve more quickly and efficiently after a virtual mass extinction modeled after real-life disasters, such as the one that killed off the dinosaurs, computer scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have found.

Mass extinctions speed up evolution by unleashing new creativity in adaptations.

Computer scientists Risto Miikkulainen and Joel Lehman co-authored the study published in an open-access paper in… read more

Soaking up carbon dioxide and turning it into valuable products

August 31, 2015

Conceptual model showing how porphyrin COFs  could  be used to split CO2 into CO and oxygen . (credit: Omar Yaghi, Berkeley Lab/UC Berkeley)

Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a system that absorbs carbon dioxide and also selectively reduces it to carbon monoxide (which serves as a primary building block for a wide range of chemical products including fuels, pharmaceuticals and plastics).

The trick: they’ve incorporated molecules of carbon dioxide reduction catalysts into the sponge-like crystals of covalentread more

Engineered bacteria form multicellular circuit to control protein expression

Care for some programmed yogurt biocomputers?
August 31, 2015

In a microscopic image created at Rice University, two strains of synthetically engineered bacteria cooperate to create multicellular phenomena. Rice scientists created the biological circuit by programming bacteria to alter gene expression in an entire population. Their fluorescence indicates the engineered capabilities have been activated. (credit: Bennett Lab/Rice University)

Rice University scientists and associates have created a biological equivalent to a computer circuit using multiple types of bacteria that change protein expression. The goal is to modify biological systems by controlling how bacteria influence each other. This could lead to bacteria that, for instance, beneficially alter the gut microbiome (collection of microorganisms) in humans.

The research is published in the journal Science.

Humans’… read more

Light-speed interconnects may lead to ultra-high-speed computers

August 31, 2015

Specially designed, extremely small metal structures can trap light. Once trapped, the light becomes a confined wave known as a surface plasmon. The plasmons propagate from the source to locations several hundred microns away, almost as fast as light through the air. Here the surface plasmons are represented by the blue waves, which begin at the pump beam and are detected hundreds of microns away by the probe beam. (credit: Image courtesy of Hess et al. Nano Lett. 15, 3472-3478 (2015). Copyright 2015 American Chemical Society)

Light waves trapped on a metal’s surface (surface plasmons) travel farther than expected, up to 250 micrometers from the source — which may be far enough to create ultra-fast nanoelectronic circuits, researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have discovered.

Future computer circuits could use this phenomenon as interconnects between nanocircuits. Because a surface plasmon travels at near the speed of light, computer circuits with this… read more

Speech-classifier program is better at predicting psychosis than psychiatrists

100% accurate
August 31, 2015

This image shows discrimination between at-risk youths who transitioned to psychosis (red) and those who did not (blue). The 'convex hull' polyhedron contains all the at-risk youth who did NOT develop psychosis (blue). All of the at-risk youth who DID later develop psychosis (red) are outside the polyhedron. Thus the speech classifier had 100 percent discrimination or accuracy. The speech classifier consisted of 'mínimum semantic coherence' (the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next), and indices of reduced complexity of speech, including phrase length, and decreased use of 'determiner' pronouns ('that', 'what', 'whatever', 'which', and 'whichever'). (credit: npj Schizophrenia and Cheryl Corcoran et al./Columbia University Medical Center)

An automated speech analysis program correctly differentiated between at-risk young people who developed psychosis over a later two-and-a-half year period and those who did not.

In a proof-of-principle study, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center found that the computerized analysis provided a more accurate classification than clinical ratings.  The study was… read more

‘Artificial leaf’ harnesses sunlight for efficient, safe hydrogen fuel production

Generating and storing renewable energy, such as solar or wind power, is a key barrier to a clean-energy economy
August 28, 2015

artificial leaf ft

The first complete, efficient, safe, integrated solar-driven system for splitting water to create hydrogen fuels has been developed by the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis (JCAP) at Caltech, according to Caltech’s Nate Lewis, George L. Argyros Professor and professor of chemistry, and the JCAP scientific director.

The new solar fuel generation system, or “artificial leaf,” is described in the August 27 online issue of the… read more

How to capture and convert CO2 from a smokestack in a single step

Reduces expense of metal-catalysts while generating formic acid, a valuable chemical
August 28, 2015

A novel catalyst transforms carbon dioxide and hydrogen into formic acid (HCOOH) via a two-step (yellow arrows) reaction. This process combines the capture and conversion of carbon dioxide in a single chemical assembly (UiO-66-P-BF2). (credit: Image courtesy of Ye and Johnson, ACS Catalysis 5, 2921-2928 (2015). © 2015 American Chemical Society)

University of Pittsburgh researchers have invented (in computations) a cheap, efficient catalyst that would capture carbon dioxide (CO2) from coal-burning power plants before it reaches the atmosphere and converts the CO2  into formic acid — a valuable chemical that would create a revenue return. 

One current method for capturing CO2 uses Metal–organic frameworks (MOFs), which have a porous, cage-like structure that can absorb CO2, but require… read more

Hawking offers new solution to ‘black hole information paradox’

New hope if you fall into a black hole
August 27, 2015

Nobel physics laureate Gerard 't Hooft of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, confers with Stephen Hawking at a weeklong conference at KTH Royal Institute of Technology on the information loss paradox. (photo credit: Håkan Lindgren)

Addressing a current controversy in physics about information in black holes, “I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon.”

The event horizon is a boundary around a black hole beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer, also known as “the point of no return” — where gravitational pull… read more

Omega-3 supplements fail to stem cognitive decline in the aged, NIH study shows

August 26, 2015

NIH study raises doubt about any benefits omega-3 and dietary supplements like these may have for cognitive decline. (credit: Photo courtesy of NEI)

While some research suggests that a diet high in omega-3 fatty acids can protect brain health, a large clinical trial by researchers at the National Institutes of Health found that omega-3 supplements did not slow cognitive decline in older persons.

With 4,000 patients followed over a five-year period, the study is one of the largest and longest of its kind. It was published Tuesday August 25 in… read more

3D-printed swimming microrobots can sense and remove toxins

Nanoparticles enable them to be self-propelled, chemically powered, and magnetically steered; could also be used for targeted drug delivery
August 26, 2015

3D-printed microfish contain functional nanoparticles that enable them to be self-propelled, chemically powered and magnetically steered. The microfish are also capable of removing and sensing toxins. (credit: J. Warner, UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering)

A new kind of fish-shaped microrobots called “microfish” can swim around efficiently in liquids, are chemically powered by hydrogen peroxide, and magnetically controlled. They will inspire a new generation of “smart” microrobots that have diverse capabilities such as detoxification, sensing, and directed drug delivery, said nanoengineers at the University of California, San Diego.

To manufacture the microfish, the researchers used an innovative 3D printing technology they developed,… read more

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Joe Firmage’s radical plan to simplify the Internet, Part 1

August 27, 2015 by Amara D. Angelica

MANYONEcloud

Legendary Internet entrepreneur Joe Firmage is back, and he plans to turn the Internet upside down. Again.

He did it once before with USWeb in the 90s, designing and building Internet sites, intranets, and applications for more than half the Fortune 100 and thousands of startups.

Now his new venture — 15 years and tens of millions in the making — called ManyOne, plans to do… read more

Should humans be able to marry robots?

Are you robophobic?
August 12, 2015 by Amara D. Angelica

(credit: AMC)

The Supreme Court’s recent 5–4 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges legalizing same-sex marriage raises the interesting question: what’s next on the “slippery slope”? Robot-human marriages? Robot-robot marriages?

Why yes, predicts on Slate.

“There has recently been a burst of cogent accounts of human-robot sex and love in popular culture: Her and Ex Machina, the AMC drama series Humans, and the novel … read more

Why we really should ban autonomous weapons: a response

By Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark & Toby Walsh
August 10, 2015

President Richard Nixon (seen here during his historical meeting with Chinese leader Mao Zedong) argued that a ban on biological weapons would strengthen U.S. national security (credit: White House Photo Office)

We welcome Sam Wallace’s contribution to the discussion on a proposed ban on offensive autonomous weapons. This is a complex issue and there are interesting arguments on both sides that need to be weighed up carefully.

His article, written as a response to an open letter signed by over 2500 AI and robotics researchers, begins with the claim that such a ban is as “unrealistic… read more

The proposed ban on offensive autonomous weapons is unrealistic and dangerous

So says former U.S. Army officer and autonomous weapons expert Sam Wallace
August 5, 2015

From Call of Duty Black Ops 2 (credit: Activision Publishing)

The open letter from the Future of Life Institute (FLI) calling for a “ban on offensive autonomous weapons” is as unrealistic as the broad relinquishment of nuclear weapons would have been at the height of the cold war.

A treaty or international agreement banning the development of artificially intelligent robotic drones for military use would not be effective. It would be impossible to completely stop nations from… read more

Ask Ray | Renowned economist and author George Gilder’s new information theory of money

August 4, 2015

money - A3

Dear readers,

Renowned economist, activist, author, and my long time friend, George Gilder has come out with his latest book titled A 21st Century Case for Gold: A New Information Theory of Money.

He makes a new case for understanding why the United States economy has had trouble rebounding.

George Gilder explains this is due to a misunderstanding of what monetary policy can do, and the creation of… read more

Ask Ray | My middle school supported my interest in Ray Kurzweil’s work and teen trip to Singularity University

July 25, 2015

Arduino is an open source electronics platform based on easy to use hardware and software. It's intended for anyone making interactive projects. -- credit | Arduino

Dear Dr. Kurzweil,

My middle school was supportive of my interest in your work and my visit to your school Singularity University, as a teenager, to see the program you founded for exploring the future.

Thank you for inviting me, and for the opportunity to audit two days there. I had a fantastic time. Everyone at Singularity University was very nice and welcoming.

My favorite presentation was… read more

Hit TV show Humans on intelligent android servants

June 26, 2015 by Amara D. Angelica

HUMANS robots

A reminder: HUMANS premieres in the U.S. Sunday June 28, 2015 at 9PM EDT on AMC.

This eight-part drama series takes place in a parallel present, featuring the Synth — a highly developed, artificially intelligent android servant.

Having seen the first two episodes, I’m totally hooked. I found the show surprisingly believable. It (almost) fills the void left after Almost Human and Fringe.

The Atlanticread more

Ask Ray | Health technologies to support sleep apnea and snoring

June 22, 2015

credit | Airing

Dear readers,

Obstructive sleep apnea is a very common sleep disorder caused by periodic obstruction of the upper airway. A sleep apnea is literally a pause in breathing. It can happen many times each hour while the individual is asleep. It leads to reduced oxygen saturation and is a risk factor for heart disease.

Most sufferers are unaware that they have this syndrome. It is often first noticed… read more

Ask Ray | Future artificial intelligence acceptance or fear

May 5, 2015

The future of the human experience connects people and data. -- credit | iStock

Dear Ray,

Take a look at this article in Russia Today. In our film The Singularity Is Near — that we produced and wrote together — the “Jerry Garcia” character is wailing about cyberconscious citizenship.

I’m not sure what part of “we are merging together” these people don’t get! To me it is as obvious as the nose on my face. Funny how well we predicted and depicted… read more

Internet radio without the web

High quality music service on Kickstarter to offer 40 million songs, using caching instead of streaming
March 23, 2015 by Amara D. Angelica

AIVVY headset (credit: AIVVY)

I got this post today from Martine Rothblatt, PhD, CEO of United Therapeutics:

” I am very excited. March 24, 2015 is Kickstarter launch for AIVVY — CEO in pictures showing me smartphone control interface.  I’m in! It is best audio streaming interface I’ve ever experienced, and compatible with Sirius XM.

“Lets you run/bike and listen to great audio without getting RF power across your skin from cellular… read more

Transhumanist position on human germline genetic modification

March 22, 2015 by James Hughes

(credit: pixabay)

Recently a group of scientists and an industry group have issued statements calling for a moratorium on human heritable or germline genetic modifications (see herehere and here), now that we have the powerful CRISPR technique to pursue such modifications.

These statements have been greeted rapturously by bioconservatives, who want to see a global ban on germline and enhancement genetic therapies.

Of… read more

Ask Ray | Futurist Martine Rothblatt, PhD discusses cyber consciousness

March 19, 2015

brain - A1

Dear readers,

I want to recommend this article in USA Today profiling Martine Rothblatt, PhD’s keynote at South by Southwest.

USA Today | Sirius founder envisions world of cyber clones, tech med

Her talk featured a roundup of concepts about the future of the human brain and the potential for people to interact through virtual avatars and recreations of an individual.

USA Todayread more

Ray Kurzweil music technology breakthroughs – inside story

Background on Kurzweil's Technical Grammy Award
February 8, 2015 by Amara D. Angelica

Kurzweil 250 prototype boards (credit: Kurzweil Music Systems/Young Chang)

In Fall 1983, visitors crammed into a packed demo on the fifth floor of the New York Hilton Hotel during the New York AES convention and marveled at the Kurzweil K250, noted Electronic Musician magazine in its March 2015 issue.

“The first ROM-based sampling keyboard to successfully reproduce the full complexity of acoustic instruments, the 250 offered natural-sounding pianos, thick drums, lush strings, and more, and its… read more

Ray Kurzweil receives 2015 Technical Grammy Award for outstanding achievements in music technology

February 7, 2015

Grammy Awards - 57th - logo

Ray Kurzweil received the 2015 Technical Grammy Award on February 7, 2015 for his outstanding achievements in the field of music technology.

One of his primary inventions paved the way for re-creating acoustic instruments with electronic equivalents.

The Technical Grammy Award is a Special Merit Award presented by vote of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences Trustees, for contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording… read more

Machine Cognition and AI Ethics at AAAI 2015

February 4, 2015 by Melanie Swan

robot brain chip

The AAAI’s Twenty-Ninth Conference on Artificial Intelligence was held January 25–30, 2015 in Austin, Texas. Machine cognition was an important focal area covered in two workshops on AI and Ethics, and Beyond the Turing Test, and in a special track on Cognitive Systems.

Some of the most interesting emergent themes are discussed in this article.

Computational Ethicsread more

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