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New fibers can deliver optogenetic signals and drugs directly into the brain while allowing simultaneous electrical readout

January 30, 2015

SEM image of a probe incorporating nine electrodes surrounding a hollow channel. The inset shows exposed electrodes after plasma etching of the cladding. (Credit: Andres Canales et al./Nature Biotechnology)

MIT scientists have developed a new method of coping with the complexity of studying the brain.

They created probes containing biocompatible multipurpose fibers about 85 micrometers in width (about the width of a human hair).

The new fibers can deliver optogenetic signals and drugs directly into the brain, while allowing simultaneous electrical readout to continuously monitor the effects of the various inputs from freely moving mice.… read more

Deep-brain imaging reveals which nearly identical neurons are associated with specific behaviors

More precise mapping of how individual neurons interact in the brain
January 30, 2015

Integration of the miniepifluorescence microscope with the microendoscope for deep-brain imaging of LH GABAergic neurons expressing GCaMP6m (credit: Joshua H. Jennings et al./Cell)

Researchers at the UNC School of Medicine have used new deep-brain imaging techniques to link the activity of individual, genetically similar neurons to particular behaviors of freely moving mice.

For the first time ever, scientists watched as one neuron was activated when a mouse searched for food while a nearly identical neuron next to it remained inactive; instead, the second neuron only became activated when the mouse began… read more

Engineering tough, resistant self-assembling amyloid fibers

Could be used as scaffolding for tissue engineering or growing photovoltaics
January 29, 2015

Amyloid fibers self-assemble from smaller proteins. UC Davis researchers have engineered other proteins so they spontaneously form amyloid. These new proteins could be useful in nanotechnology. Here, the cap structure (red) was removed from spruce budworm antifreeze protein and other structures adjusted so that molecules could link up as fibrils (bottom). (credit: UC Davis)

Researchers at UC Davis and Rice University have developed methods to manipulate natural proteins so that they self-assemble into amyloid fibrils.*

“These are big proteins with lots of flat surfaces suitable for functionalization, for example to grow photovoltaics or to attach to other surfaces,” said Dan Cox, a physics professor at UC Davis and coauthor on the paper. The fibers could also be used… read more

Magnetic graphene created, making possible new spintronics data-storage devices

January 29, 2015

Graphene is a one-atom thick sheet of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice. UC Riverside physicists have found a way to induce magnetism in graphene while also preserving graphene’s electronic properties. (credit: Shi Lab, UC Riverside)

A team of physicists at the University of California, Riverside has found an ingenious way to induce magnetism in graphene while also preserving graphene’s electronic properties (conducting electricity).

They accomplished this by bringing a graphene sheet very close to  yttrium iron garnet, a “magnetic insulator” (an electrical insulator with magnetic properties).*

Magnetic substances like iron tend to interfere with graphene’s electrical conduction. The researchers avoided those… read more

Probiotic treats diabetes in rats, could lead to human remedy

Lowers glucose levels by 30 percent; could be delivered as pill instead of injections
January 29, 2015

This image shows a rat cell re-programmed to express insulin (green). The nucleus is stained blue. (Credit: Reprinted with permission from the journal Diabetes)

Imagine a pill that helps people control diabetes with the body’s own insulin to lower blood glucose levels.

Cornell researchers have achieved this feat in rats by engineering human lactobacilli, a common gut bacteria, to secrete a protein that modifies intestinal cells to produce insulin..

A 2003 study led by Atsushi Suzuki of the University of Tsukuba, Japan, first demonstrated… read more

Stomach-acid-powered micromotors tested in living animal

January 28, 2015

Zinc stomach micromotors

Imagine a micromotor fueled by stomach acid that can take a bubble-powered ride inside a mouse — and that could one day be a safer, more efficient way to deliver drugs or diagnose tumors for humans.

That’s the goal of a team of researchers at the University of California, San Diego.

The experiment is the first to show that these micromotors can operate safely in… read more

Scientists use stem cells to grow new human hair in the lab

Next step: transplant stem-cell-derived human dermal papilla cells back into human subjects (any volunteers?)
January 28, 2015

Sanford-Burnham scientists grew human dermal papillae cells from stem cells. (credit: Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute)

A method for initiating human hair growth — using human pluripotent stem cells to create new cells — has been developed by Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute (Sanford-Burnham) researchers.

Their idea is to coax human pluripotent stem cells to become dermal papilla cells — a unique population of cells that regulate hair-follicle formation and growth cycle. (Human dermal papilla cells on their own are… read more

Higher dementia risk linked to more use of common drugs

January 27, 2015

(Credit: iStock)

A large study links a significantly increased risk for developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, to taking commonly used medications with anticholinergic effects at higher doses or for a longer time.

Many older people take these medications, which include nonprescription diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and related drugs.

JAMA Internal Medicine published the report, called “Cumulative Use of Strong Anticholinergic Medications and Incident Dementia.”

It’s… read more

Mastering math through movement using Kinect for Windows

January 27, 2015

Carmen Petrick Smith, assistant professor of mathematics education (center), works with undergraduate education majors (left to right) Tegan Garon, Sam Scrivani and Kiersten Barr on movements that are used to help elementary school children learn geometry. (credit: Andy Duback)

University of Vermont assistant professor of mathematics education Carmen Petrick Smith has found in a study that elementary school students who interacted with a Kinect for Windows mathematics program while learning geometry showed significant gains in the understanding of angles and angle measurements.

The Kinect is a motion sensor input device that allows people to interact with computers based on their natural movements. Hmm, imagine what… read more

Giant space telescope could image objects at far higher resolution than Hubble

Could image space objects like black hole “event horizons” or view rabbit-size objects on Earth
January 27, 2015

A new orbiting telescope concept developed at CU-Boulder could allow scientists to image objects in space or on Earth at hundreds of times the resolution of the Hubble Space Telescope. (credit: NASA)

University of Colorado Boulder researchers plan to update NASA officials this week on a revolutionary space telescope concept selected by the agency for study last June that could provide images up to 1,000 times sharper than the Hubble Space Telescope.

CU-Boulder Professor Webster Cash said the instrument package would consist of an orbiting space telescope with an opaque disk in front… read more

Targeting specific astrocyte brain-cell receptors found to boost memory in mice

A drug that targets those receptors could improve memory in Alzheimer's disease
January 27, 2015

Astrocytes are stained in red, the A2A receptors in green, the overlap between the two shows as yellow, and the cell nuclei are in blue. (credit: Anna Orr/Gladstone Institutes)

Gladstone Institutes researchers have uncovered a new memory regulator in the brain that may offer a potential treatment to improve memory in Alzheimer’s disease using a drug that targets those receptors.

They found in their research* that decreasing the number of A2A adenosine receptors in astrocyte brain cells improved memory in healthy mice. It also prevented memory impairments in a mouse model of… read more

Carbon nanotubes found to create blood clots in medical devices

January 26, 2015

Scanning electron micrographs of multiwall-carbon-nanotube-modified PVC prior to (top) and after (bottom) perfusion, showing platelet aggregation (credit: Alan M. Gaffney et al./Nanomedicine)

Scientists in the School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Trinity College Dublin, have discovered that using carbon nanotubes as biomaterials that come into contact with blood generates blood clots.

The reason: When blood comes into contact with foreign surfaces, the blood’s protective platelets are activated, creating blood clots.

This can be catastrophic in clinical settings where extracorporeal circulation technologies are used, such as during… read more

Scientists extend telomeres to slow cell aging

A modified RNA that encodes a telomere-extending protein to cultured human cell yielded large numbers of cells for study
January 26, 2015

Human chromosomes (gray) capped by telomeres (white) (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a new procedure that uses modified messenger RNA to quickly and efficiently increase the length of human telomeres, the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are associated with aging and disease.

Treated cells behave as if they are much younger than untreated cells, multiplying with abandon in the laboratory dish rather than stagnating… read more

Ripping graphene nanoribbon edges converts the material from conductive to semiconducting

January 26, 2015

Graphene nanoribbons can be enticed to form favorable “reconstructed” edges by pulling them apart with the right force and at the right temperature, according to researchers at Rice University. The illustration shows the crack at the edge that begins the formation of five- and seven-atom pair under the right conditions. (credit: ZiAng Zhang/Rice University)

Theoretical physicists at Rice University have figured out how to custom-design graphene nanoribbons by controlling the conditions under which the nanoribbons are pulled apart to get the edges they need for specific mechanical and electrical properties, such as metallic (for chip interconnects, for example) or semiconducting (for chips).

The new research by Rice physicist Boris Yakobson and his colleagues appeared this month in the… read more

Genome-wide search reveals >750 worm genes involved in long-term memory

January 25, 2015

Long-term memory training in worms (left) led to induction of the transcription factor CREB in AIM neurons (shown by arrows in right). CREB-induced genes were shown to be involved in forming long-term memories in worm neurons. (credit: Murphy lab)

A new Princeton University study has identified more than 750 genes involved in long-term memory in the worm — part of research aimed at finding ways to retain cognitive abilities during aging, including compounds.

The study takes a different approach than the recent ENIGMA study, which  identified genetic mutations in humans related to brain aging.

The new study, published in the journal Neuron,… read more

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Latest blog posts

Ray Kurzweil receives 2015 Technical Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in music technology

January 12, 2015

Grammy Awards - 57th - logo

Ray Kurzweil will receive the 2015 Technical Grammy Award for his lifetime of work 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 field.… read 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 UK 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… read more

Don’t fear artificial intelligence

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

Stephen Hawking, the pre-eminent physicist, recently warned that artificial intelligence (AI), once it sur­passes human intelligence, could pose… 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

Explainer: what is 4D printing?

December 19, 2014 by Dan Raviv

Shapeshifting: 3D printed materials that change shape over time. (Credit: Dan Raviv/Scientific Reports)

Additive manufacturing — or 3D printing — is 30 years old this year. Today, it’s found not just in industry but in households, as the price of 3D printers has fallen below US$1,000. Knowing you can print almost anything, not just marks on paper, opens up unlimited opportunities for us to manufacture toys, household appliances and tools in our living rooms.

But there’s more that can be done with… read more

Ray Kurzweil receives IEEE Eta Kappa Nu honor society’s top honor

November 30, 2014

Saurabh Sinha, PhD, Chair of the IEEE Educational Activities Board; Ray Kurzweil, IEEE Eta Kappa Nu “Eminent Member” honoree; Karen Panetta, PhD, Chair of the IEEE Education Activities Board and Recognition Committee; John Orr, PhD, President of Eta Kappa Nu, the IEEE Honor Society. (credit: IEEE)

Ray Kurzweil was presented with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Eta Kappa Nu honor society top honor, Eminent Member, at the 2014 IEEE Educational Activities Board Awards Ceremony. He received the honor for technical attainments and contributions to society through outstanding leadership in the profession of electrical and computer engineering.

The Induction and Awards presentation took place during the week of IEEE’s Meeting Series. Members of the… read more

Ask Ray | Living in virtual worlds as an avatar

November 19, 2014

Second Life - 1

Dear Mr. Kurzweil,

I’m in seventh grade, taking a research class called Da Vinci. I have to produce a 10 page annotated paper. I will produce a multimedia presentation on my topic.

My topic is immortality through genetics, nanotechnology and robotics with a special emphasis on artificial intelligence, such as living in a virtual world as an avatar.

Our teacher encouraged us to reach out to experts.… read more

Ask Ray | Potential for elitization of the singularity

November 18, 2014 by Ray Kurzweil

(credit: stock image)

Dear Professor Kurzweil,

I was hoping for your views on the potential elitization of singularity that could lead to exacerbation of class, opportunity and economic division.

The ongoing quest for extending human life and artificially enhancing its quality testifies to our instincts for permanence and survival at all cost.

Technologically acquired supremacy breaks the well accepted paradigm that improved life span, physical and cognitive performance is possible only with practice, studious effort… read more

Who blew up the rocket?

What happens when you mix space pork, greedy megacorporations, and recycled Russian rocket engines?
November 6, 2014 by Howard Bloom

Antares launch failure, (credit: NASA)

Exactly what exploded in a ball of flame over Wallops Island, Virginia, on Tuesday October 28 at 6:22 pm? And what brought down Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo over the Mojave Desert Friday morning just after ten am?

Was the vehicle that exploded above the launch pad in Virginia, as some headlines have proclaimed, a NASA rocket? Was it, as others have said, a commercial rocket? Or were both… read more

Private spaceflight will survive Virgin tragedy because we choose to dream big

November 4, 2014 by Fredrick Jenet

Spaceship Two (credit: Virgin Galactic)

This week, I can predict with a high degree of accuracy that more than 50,000 car accidents will occur in the U.S., over 500 of which will involve fatalities. Last week was no different. Is social media alive with discussions on the future of the automotive industry due to these incidents? Have the “Big Three” seen major losses in stock prices? Are people now afraid to get into their cars… read more

When parallel worlds collide, quantum mechanics is born

November 3, 2014 by Howard Wiseman

Many different worlds but a finite number (credit: Flickr/fdecomite, CC)

Parallel universes — worlds where the dinosaur-killing asteroid never hit, or where Australia was colonised by the Portuguese – are a staple of science fiction. But are they real?

In a radical paper published this week in Physical Review X [and available here in open-access arXiv  --- Ed.] we (Dr Michael Hall and I from Griffith University and Dr Dirk-André Deckert from the University of California) propose not only that parallel… read more

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

‘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

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