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On/off switch for aging cells discovered, may hold the key to ‘healthy aging’

Flipping on the telomerase switch to restore telomeres
September 23, 2014

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

Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered an on-and-off “switch” in cells that points to a way to encourage healthy cells to keep dividing and generating, for example, new lung or liver tissue — even in old age — and may hold the key to healthy aging.

In our bodies, newly divided cells constantly replenish lungs, skin, liver and other organs. However, most human cells cannot divide… read more

Is climate science ‘settled’?

"Rigidly promulgating the idea that climate science is 'settled' (or is a 'hoax') demeans and chills the scientific enterprise."
September 23, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

The claim that “climate science is settled,” which runs through today’s popular and policy discussions, is misguided, says computational physicist Steven E. Koonin*, Director of the Center for Urban Science and Progress at New York University, writing in The Wall Street Journal Friday.

“It has … distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment … and inhibited… read more

Making quantum dots glow brighter

May lead to improved LED moniitors and medical imaging
September 23, 2014

This image shows the experimental set-up researchers used to analyze the behavior of quantum dots placed on metal oxides. A laser illuminated the quantum dots to make them glow and a spectrometer was used to analyze the light they emitted. (Credit: Seyed Sadeghi/ University of Alabama, Huntsville)

Researchers from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the University of Oklahoma have found a new way to control the properties of quantum dots, those tiny chunks of semiconductor material that glow different colors depending on their size, using ultrathin layers of metal oxides.

Quantum dots, which are so small they start to exhibit atom-like quantum properties, have a wide range of potential applications, from sensors, light-emitting diodes,… read more

Sensing neuronal activity with light

September 23, 2014

Archer1 fluorescence in a cultured rat hippocampal neuron. By monitoring changes in this fluorescence at up to a thousand frames per second, researchers can track the electrical activity of the cell. (Credit: Nicholas Flytzanis, Claire Bedbrook and Viviana Gradinaru/Caltech)

Caltech researchers have developed a new optogenetics material  for mapping brain activity.

Optogenetics uses light to sense or control neurons that have been genetically sensitized to light.

The work — a collaboration between Viviana Gradinaru, assistant professor of biology and biological engineering, and Frances Arnold, the Dick and Barbara Dickinson Professor of Chemical Engineering, Bioengineering and Biochemistry—was described in two separate… read more

Superlattice transforms graphene into a semiconductor

September 22, 2014

Graphene placed on top of boron nitride to form a superlattice (credit: Berkeley Lab)

Graphene can be transformed into a new superlattice state that converts graphene — normally a metallic conductor — into a semiconductor, MIT and University of Manchester researchers have found.

In a research paper published in Science, the collaboration, led by MIT‘s theory professor Leonid Levitov and Manchester‘s Nobel laureate Sir Andre Geim, reports that they created a superlattice… read more

Russian scientists create ultrahard ‘Fullerite’ material at room temperature and lower pressure

"Ultrahard" materials are harder than diamond
September 22, 2014

Photo of a Vickers indenter made of ultrahard fullerite (credit: Mikhai lPopov)

A method for synthesis of an ultrahard material called Fullerite (exceeding diamond in hardness) at room temperature and lower pressure has been developed by Russian researchers from the Technological Institute for Superhard and Novel Carbon Materials in Troitsk, Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology (MIPT), MISiS, and MSU.

The research is described in a recently published paper in the journal Carbon.

Fullerite is a polymer… read more

Ultra-thin diamond nanothreads are strongest, stiffest materials

Could make possible construction of a "space elevator"
September 22, 2014

Diamond nanothread structure, artist's impression (credit: Penn State University)

Scientists have discovered how to produce ultra-thin “diamond nanothreads” that promise extraordinary properties, including strength and stiffness greater than that of today’s strongest nanotubes and polymers.

A paper describing this discovery by a research team led by John V. Badding, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, was published in the September 21, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Materials.

Potential applications that most interest… read more

A new impermeable form of graphene oxide could be the ultimate protective coating

September 19, 2014

Water permeation through a brick with (right) and without (left) graphitic coating (credit: Y. Su et al./ArXiv)

A new form of graphene oxide could be the ultimate protective coating and could have a significant impact on chemical, pharmaceutical, and electronic industries, according to University of Manchester researchers.

For example, applied as paint, it could provide an ultra-strong, non-corrosive coating for a wide range of industrial applications.

Besides being protective, the new material is mechanically nearly as tough as graphene itself, the strongest known… read more

Car hacking: who’s monitoring (or controlling) your car?

September 19, 2014

Ford reportedly shares emails sent via its Ford SYNC with business partners (credit: Ford)

As vehicles become computers on wheels, the risk of car hacking is real, according to Australia-based Queensland University of Technology (QUT) road-safety expert Professor Andry Rakotonirainy from QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS).

He has researched the security systems of existing fleet and future autonomous and connected cars and found there is little protection against hacking.

“The… read more

A long-lasting, water-based nuclear-energy-powered battery

Could be used in cars, emergency devices, and spaceships
September 19, 2014

Schematic diagram and photograph of the Pt-nanoporous TiO2 electrode (credit: Baek Hyun Kim & Jae W. Kwon/Scientific Reports)

University of Missouri (MU) researchers have developed a prototype of an efficient nuclear-energy-powered* battery that does not require recharging and could be a reliable energy source in automobiles and space vehicles.

Betavoltaics [a battery technology that generates electrical power from beta-particle radiation] has been studied as an energy source since the 1950s,” said Jae W. Kwon, an associate professor of electrical and computer engineering and… read more

Capturing the motion of a single molecule in real time as it oscillates from one quantum state to another

September 18, 2014

(Credit: Nature Photonics)

UC Irvine chemists have scored a scientific first: capturing moving images of a single molecule as it vibrates and shifts from one quantum state to another.

The groundbreaking achievement, led by Ara Apkarian, professor of chemistry, and Eric Potma, associate professor of chemistry, could lead to new insights in developing quantum computers.

It also moves researchers a step closer to viewing the… read more

Measuring the motion patterns of bacteria in real time

A potential rapid screening technique for antibiotics and cancer drugs
September 18, 2014

Illustration of a microcantilever sensor with E. coli bacteria attached and a close-up illustration of a single bacterium (inset). The motion of the bacteria couple to the cantilever and the cantilever motion is detected using the optical beam deflection technique. (Credit: L. Li and C. Lissandrello / Boston University)

Researchers at Boston University and Stanford University School of Medicine have developed a  clever new way to study the motion patterns of bacteria in real time — a potential new screen for antibiotics and cancer drugs.

The researchers chemically attached colonies of Escherichia coli bacteria to a microcantilever — a microscopic beam anchored at one end, with the other end movable, and they aimed a laser beam at the… read more

Twisting radio beams to transmit ultra-high-speed data

Transmissions reach speeds of 32 gigabits per second
September 18, 2014

This is a graphic showing the intensity of the radio beams after twisting (credit: Alan Willner / USC Viterbi)

Building on previous research using twisted light to send data at unheard-of speeds, scientists at USC have developed a similar technique with radio waves, reaching high speeds without the problems with optical systems.

The researchers, led by electrical engineering professor Alan Willner of the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, reached data transmission rates of 32 gigabits per second across 2.5 meters of free space in a… read more

Smallest known galaxy with supermassive black hole discovered

Black holes may be more common than we thought
September 18, 2014

This Hubble Space telescope image shows the gargantuan galaxy M60 on the left and the ultracompact dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1 below it and to the right, and also enlarged as an inset. A new international study found that M60-UCD1 is the smallest known galaxy with a supermassive black hole at its center, suggesting that the dwarf galaxy originally was much larger but was stripped of its outer layers by gravity from galaxy M60 over billions of years. M60’s gravity also is pulling galaxy NGC4647, upper right, and the two eventually will collide. (Credit: NASA/Space Telescope Science Institute/European Space Agency)

Astronomers have discovered that an ultracompact dwarf galaxy harbors a supermassive black hole with a mass equal to 21 million suns — the smallest galaxy known to contain such a massive black hole. The finding suggests that huge black holes may be more common than previously believed.

“It is the smallest and lightest object that we know of that has a supermassive black hole,” says Anil Seth, lead author… read more

Interactive Bionic Man, featuring 14 novel biotechnologies

September 17, 2014

(Credit: National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering)

The National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering has launched the “NIBIB Bionic Man,” an interactive Web tool that showcases cutting-edge research in biotechnology.

The bionic man features 14 technologies currently being developed by NIBIB-supported researchers.

Examples include a powered prosthetic leg that helps users achieve a more natural gait, a wireless brain-computer interface that lets people who are paralyzed control computer devices or… 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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