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Heating and cooling genetic samples with light leads to ultrafast DNA diagnostics

Five-minute DNA tests possible in a wide range of settings, from rural Africa to a hospital ER
August 4, 2015

This is an artist's rendering of photonic PCR on a chip using light to rapidly heat and cool electrons at the surface of a thin film of gold. This method yields gene amplification results in mere minutes, and promises to transform point-of-care diagnostics in fields as diverse as medicine, food security and evolutionary biology. (credit: Luke Lee's BioPOETS lab)

New technology developed by bioengineers at the University of California, Berkeley, promises to dramatically speed up the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) DNA test and make it cheaper and more portable by simply accelerating the heating and cooling of genetic samples with the switch of a light.

This turbocharged thermal cycling, described in an open-access paper published Friday July 31 in the journal Light: Science & Application,… read more

A precision brain-controlled prosthesis nearly as good as one-finger typing

My allow people with ALS or spinal cord injuries to communicate faster and more accurately
August 4, 2015

Brain-controlled prostheses sample a few hundred neurons to estimate motor commands that involve millions of neurons. So tiny sampling errors can reduce the precision and speed of thought-controlled keypads. A Stanford technique can analyze this sample and make dozens of corrective adjustments in the blink of an eye to make thought control more precise. (credit: Jonathan Kao, Shenoy Lab)

An interdisciplinary team led by Stanford electrical engineer Krishna Shenoy has developed a technique to improve brain-controlled prostheses. These brain-computer-interface (BCI) devices, for people with neurological disease or spinal cord injury, deliver thought commands to devices such as virtual keypads, bypassing the damaged area.

The new technique addresses a problem with these brain-controlled prostheses: they currently access a sample of only a few hundred neurons, so tiny errors in… read more

Unlikely graphene-nanotube combination forms high-speed digital switch

August 4, 2015

Hair-like boron nitride nanotubes intersect a sheet of graphene to create a digital switch. (credit: Michigan Tech, Yoke Khin Yap)

By themselves, graphene is too conductive while boron nitride nanotubes are too insulating, but combining them could create a workable digital switch — which can be used for controlling electrons in computers and other electronic devices.

To create this serendipitous super-hybrid, Yoke Khin Yap, a professor of physics at Michigan Technological University, and his team exfoliated (peeled off) graphene (from graphite) and modified the… read more

Sleeping on your side may clear waste from your brain most effectively

Could reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological diseases
August 4, 2015

The brain’s glymphatic pathway clears harmful wastes, especially during sleep. This lateral position could prove to be the best position for the brain-waste clearance process. (credit: Stony Brook University)

Sleeping in the lateral, or side position, as compared to sleeping on one’s back or stomach, may more effectively remove brain waste, and could reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, according to researchers at Stony Brook University.

Stony Brook University researchers discovered this in experiments with rodents by using dynamic contrast magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to image the brain’s glymphaticread more

Intracellular microlasers for precise labeling of a trillion individual cells

August 3, 2015

Massachusetts General Hospital investigators have induced subcutaneous fat cells in a piece of skin from a pig to emit laser light in response to energy delivered through an optical fiber (credit: Matjaž Humar, PhD, and Seok Hyun Yun, PhD, Wellman Center for Photomedicine, Massachusetts General Hospital)

Imagine being able to label a trillion cells in the body to detect what’s going on in each individual cell.

That’s the eventual goal of a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) study to allow individual cells to produce laser light. The wavelengths of light emitted by these intracellular microlasers differ based on factors such as the size, shape, and composition of each microlaser, allowing precise labeling of individual… read more

Obama signs executive order authorizing development of exascale supercomputers

A viable path forward for future HPC (high-performance computing) systems even after the limits of current semiconductor technology are reached (the "post-Moore's Law era")
August 3, 2015

Titan supercomputer (credit: ORNL)

President Obama has signed an executive order authorizing the National Strategic Computing Initiative (NSCI), with the goal of creating the world’s fastest supercomputers. The NSCI is charged with building the world’s first-ever exascale (1,000-petaflops) computer — 30 times faster than today’s fastest supercomputer.

The order mandates:

  1. Accelerating delivery of a capable exascale computing system that integrates hardware and software capability to deliver approximately

read more

A high-performance single-molecule diode

The ultimate limit in electronic miniaturization just got a lot closer
August 3, 2015

Researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University have created the world’s highest-performance single-molecule diode using a combination of gold electrodes and an ionic solution (credit: Latha Venkataraman, Columbia University)

A team of researchers from Berkeley Lab and Columbia University has created “the world’s highest-performance single-molecule diode,” using a combination of gold electrodes and an ionic solution.

The diode’s rectification ratio (ratio of forward to reverse current at fixed voltage) is in excess of 200, “a record for single-molecule devices,” says Jeff Neaton, Director of the Molecular Foundry, a senior faculty scientist… read more

Millennium Project releases ’2015–16 State of the Future’ report

August 3, 2015

2015-16 State of the Future

The Millennium Project released today its annual “2015-16 State of the Future” report, listing global trends on 28 indicators of progress and regress, new insights into 15 Global Challenges, and impacts of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and other advanced technologies on employment over the next 35 years.

“Another 2.3 billion people are expected to be added to the planet in… read more

New supercapacitor design offers record high-energy storage

Rivals thin-film lithium ion batteries in energy density; potential uses include electric vehicles and defibrillators
July 31, 2015

Schematic representation of bilayer capacitor (not to scale). The gray discs represent aluminum electrodes. (credit: Yunsang Kim et al./ Advanced Energy Materials)

Using a hybrid silica sol-gel material and self-assembled monolayers of a common fatty acid, Georgia Tech researchers have developed a new supercapacitor material that provides electrical-energy storage capacity rivaling some batteries.

Capacitors can provide large amounts of current quickly (high power density), unlike batteries. So if this material can be scaled up from laboratory samples, devices made from it could surpass traditional electrolytic (high-capacity) capacitors for applications… read more

An incredible nanoscale 3-D voyage through a tiny part of the mouse brain

July 31, 2015

Synapses in contact with a dendrite (the large red object). The white dots are synaptic vesicles inside axons. (credit: N. Kasthuri et al./Cell)

Using an electron microscope, researchers have peered down inside the brain of an adult mouse at a scale previously unachievable, generating dramatic color images at 3-nm-pixel resolution. The research was published Thursday July 30 in an open-access paper in the journal Cell.

Focusing on a small area of the mouse brain that receives sensory information from mouse whiskers, the researchers built a system that automatically slices a subject… read more

Ebola vaccine found 100% effective in initial trial

July 31, 2015

The Ebola vaccine rVSV Zebov-GP is being prepared for injection (credit: WHO/S. Hawkey)

An Ebola vaccine known as VSV-EBOV, provided by Merck, Sharp & Dohme, has shown 100% efficacy in individuals, according to results from an interim analysis published (open access) today (July 31) in the British journal The Lancet.

“This is an extremely promising development,” said Margaret Chan, M.D., Director-General of the World Health Organization. “The credit goes to the Guinean Government, the people living in the communities and our… read more

How to tune graphene properties by introducing defects

July 30, 2015

Exfoliation setup. Inset: graphite electrode during exfoliation (credit: Mario Hofmann/Nanotechnology)

Taiwanese researchers reported today (July 30) in the journal Nanotechnology that they have developed a simple electrochemical approach that allows for defects to intentionally be created in graphene, altering its electrical and mechanical properties and making the material more useful for electronic devices and drug delivery, for example.

Current graphene synthesis techniques, such as chemical vapor deposition and reduction of graphene oxide, can only produce graphene with a narrow… read more

Memory problems? Go climb a tree.

Working memory capacity increase of 50 percent found in research
July 30, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Climbing a tree or balancing on a beam can dramatically improve cognitive skills, according to a study recently conducted by researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of North Florida.

The study is the first to show that proprioceptively dynamic activities like climbing a tree, done over a short period of time, have dramatic working memory benefits.

Working memory (the… read more

Non-surgical electrical/drug stimulation helps patients with paralysis to voluntarily move their legs — a first

July 30, 2015

Range of voluntary movement prior to receiving stimulation compared to movement after receiving stimulation, physical conditioning, and buspirone. The subject’s legs are supported so that they can move without resistance from gravity. The electrodes on the legs are used for recording muscle activity. (credit: Edgerton Lab/UCLA)

In a study conducted at UCLA, five men who had been completely paralyzed were able to move their legs in a rhythmic motion thanks to a new, noninvasive neuromodulation and pharmacological procedure that stimulates the spinal cord.

The researchers believe this to be the first time voluntary leg movements have ever been relearned in completely paralyzed patients without surgery. The results are reported in an… read more

Scientists successfully edit human immune-system T cells

New CRISPR research has implications for autoimmune diseases, AIDS, and cancer
July 29, 2015

Cas9 edit

In a project led by investigators at UC San Francisco , scientists have devised a new strategy to precisely modify human immune-system T cells, using the popular genome-editing system known as CRISPR/Cas9. T cells play important roles in a wide range of diseases, from diabetes to AIDS to cancer, so this achievement provides a path toward CRISPR/Cas9-based therapies for many serious health problems, the scientists say.… read more

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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

The Ruilong Maker Kaku robot early education robot, with learning suite and Arduino micro-controller. Learning toy for children. -- credit | Ruilong Maker

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

Ask Ray | Immortality via the singularity

February 3, 2015

(credit: iStock)

Dear Dr. Kurzweil,

Thank you so much for all your help, time, and encouragement throughout my paper and presentation. It was really exciting that you could be in my 7th grade presentation.

I realize as a Director of Engineering at Google you are very busy. I would love to visit Google. I really appreciate everything you have done and all the resources that you sent.

— Lucyread more

The future of the newsletter and e-mail

December 31, 2014 by Amara D. Angelica

Oculus Rift: millions sold in 2015? (credit: Samsung)

In “The return of the newsletter,” Wired notes today that with better spam filters and other tools, non-stop overload from Facebook and Twitter, and the death of RSS, newsletters are “making something of a comeback.”

The article mentions KurzweilAI News and nine other newsletters, including mini-AIR, the newsletter of the hilarious Annals of Improbable Research magazine, noted for its annual Ig Nobel Prizes (such as one earlier this… read more

Don’t fear artificial intelligence | by Ray Kurzweil

December 30, 2014 by Ray Kurzweil

Ray Kurzweil responds to concerns from Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking, Phd, on the future possibility of dangers from developments in artificial intelligence. This was also published in Time magazine’s Ideas section.

related reading:
Time | “Don’t fear artificial intelligence” by Ray Kurzweil

Don’t fear artificial intelligence
by Ray Kurzweil

Stephen Hawking, the pre-eminent physicist, recently warned that artificial intelligence… read more

We could get to the singularity in ten years

December 26, 2014 by Ben Goertzel

10 to Singuarlity

It would require a different way of thinking about the timing of the Singularity, says AGI pioneer Ben Goertzel, PhD. Rather than a predictive exercise, it would require thinking about it the way an athlete thinks about a game when going into it, or the way the Manhattan Project scientists thought at the start of the project.

This article, written in 2010, is excerpted with permission from Goertzel’s newread more

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