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A nanolaser and a bendable-light material promise to speed up microelectronic devices

March 27, 2015

nanolaser-honeycomb ft.

University of Washington (UW) scientists have built a new nanometer-sized laser — using the thinnest semiconductor available today — that is energy efficient, easy to build, and compatible with existing electronics.

The UW nanolaser, developed in collaboration with Stanford University, uses a tungsten-based semiconductor only three atoms thick as light emitter.

The technology is described in a paper published in the March 16 online edition of read more

Engineers create stretchable structures tougher than bulletproof vests

March 27, 2015

coil fabricated from aligned nanofibers1 ft

Researchers at University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) have created a material made from nanofibers that can stretch to up to seven times its length while remaining tougher than Kevlar.

These structures absorb up to 98 joules per gram. Kevlar, often used to make bulletproof vests, can absorb up to 80 joules per gram. The researchers hope the structures will one day form material that can… read more

Photosynthesis hack needed to feed the world by 2050

March 27, 2015

transforming crops ft.

High-performance computing and genetic engineering could boost crop photosynthetic efficiency enough to feed a planet expected to have 9.5 billion people on it by 2050, researchers report in an open-access paper in the journal Cell.

“We now know every step in the processes that drive photosynthesis in plants such as soybeans and maize,” said University of Illinois plant biology professor Stephen P. Long, who wrote… read more

New kind of ‘tandem’ solar cell developed

Researchers combine two types of photovoltaic material to make a cell that harnesses more sunlight
March 26, 2015

Test sample of a monolithic perovskite-silicon multijunction solar cell produced by the MIT-Stanford University team (credit: Felice Frankel)

Researchers at MIT and Stanford University have developed a new kind of solar cell that combines two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material to harvest a broader range of the sun’s energy. The development could lead to photovoltaic cells that are more efficient than those currently used in solar-power installations, the researchers say.

The new cell uses a layer of silicon — which forms the basis for most of today’s… read more

Promising pathways for solar photovoltaic power

A broad new assessment of the status and prospects of solar photovoltaic technology by MIT
March 26, 2015

comparing different photovoltaic materials ft

In a broad new assessment of the status and prospects of solar photovoltaic technology, MIT researchers say that it is “one of the few renewable, low-carbon resources with both the scalability and the technological maturity to meet ever-growing global demand for electricity.”

Use of solar photovoltaics has been growing at a phenomenal rate: Worldwide installed capacity has seen sustained growth averaging 43 percent per year since 2000. To evaluate… read more

Why carbon-nanotube fibers make ideal implantable brain electrodes

March 26, 2015

Pairs of carbon nanotube fibers have been tested for potential use as implantable electrodes to treat patients with neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease. The fibers invented at Rice University proved to be far better than metallic wires now used to stimulate neurons in the brain. (Credit: the Pasquali Lab)

Rice University scientists have found that the carbon nanotube fibers they developed for aerospace are superior to metal and plain-carbon electrodes for deep brain stimulation for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s and for brain-machine interfaces to neural circuits in the brain.

The individual nanotubes measure only a few nanometers across, but when millions are bundled in a process called wet spinning, they become thread-like fibers about a… read more

U.S. engineering schools to educate 20,000 students to meet grand challenges

March 25, 2015

(credit: National Academy of Engineering)

In a letter of commitment presented to President Barack Obama at the White House Science Fair Monday, more than 120 U.S. engineering schools announced plans to educate a new generation of engineers expressly equipped to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing society in the 21st century.

These “Grand Challenges,” identified through initiatives such as the White House Strategy for American Innovation, the National Academy of Engineering (NAE) Grand Challenges… read more

What is 5G and when can I get it?

March 25, 2015

(credit: Huawei)

Imagine being able to download a full-length 8GB HD movie to your phone in six seconds (versus seven minutes over 4G or more than an hour on 3G) and video chats so immersive that it will feel like you can reach out and touch the other person right through the screen.

That’s the vision for the 5G concept — the next generation of wireless networks — presented at the… read more

How to create 3D mini lungs

Could help scientists learn more about lung diseases and test new drugs
March 25, 2015

Scientists coax stem cells to form mini lungs, 3D structures that mimic human lungs and survived in the lab for 100 days (credit: University of Michigan Health System)

Scientists have coaxed stem cells to grow the first three-dimensional human mini lungs, or organoids, to help scientists learn more about lung diseases and test new drugs.

Previous research has focused on deriving lung tissue from flat (2D) cell systems or growing cells onto scaffolds made from donated organs.

“These mini lungs can mimic the responses of real tissues and will be a good model to study how organs… read more

Almost 3,000 atoms entangled with a single photon

Could lead to powerful quantum computers and more-accurate atomic clocks
March 25, 2015

Generating entanglement of 2,910 atoms (credit: Robert McConnell et al./Nature)

Physicists from MIT and the University of Belgrade have developed a new technique that can entangle 2,910 atoms using only a single photon — the largest number of particles that have ever been mutually entangled experimentally (previous record: 100).

The researchers say the technique provides a realistic method to generate large ensembles of entangled atoms, which are key components for realizing more-precise atomic clocks and more powerful computers.… read more

Optogenetics without the genetics

Allows scientists to stimulate neurons with flashes of light without requiring genetic modification
March 24, 2015

Funtionalized heated gold nanoparticles are not washed away, allowing them to serve a neural stimulators (credit: Joa˜ o L. Carvalho-de-Souza/Neuron)

A method of using light to activate or suppress neurons without requiring genetic modification (as in optogenetics) has been developed by scientists from the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

The new technique, described in the journal Neuron, uses targeted, heated gold nanoparticles. The researchers says it’s a significant technological advance with potential advantages over current optogenetic methods, including possible use in… read more

How to sort and extract biomolecules in fluids

Could lead to efficient clinical diagnostics and chemical purification, including removing contaminants from water and desalination
March 24, 2015

A team of Harvard scientists has demonstrated a new way of detecting and extracting biomolecules from fluid mixtures (credit: Peter Mallen, Harvard Medical School)

Harvard scientists have demonstrated a new way to detect and extract biomolecules from fluid mixtures, using an ingenious microfluidic design combining chemical and mechanical properties.

The approach requires fewer steps, uses less energy, and achieves better performance than several techniques currently in use. It could lead to better technologies for medical diagnostics and chemical purification.

For example, it could provide a means of removing contaminants from water, and… read more

Neuroscientists pinpoint cell type in the brain that controls body clock

Could lead to treatments for jet lag, neurological problems, and metabolism issues, but one simple solution is to not use electronic devices before sleep
March 24, 2015

Suprachiasmatic nucleus controls sleep-wake cycles (credit: National Institute of General Medical Sciences)

UT Southwestern Medical Center neuroscientists have identified key cells in the brain that control 24-hour circadian rhythms (sleep and wake cycles) as well as functions such as hormone production, metabolism, and blood pressure.

The discovery may lead to future treatments for jet lag and other sleep disorders and even for neurological problems such as Alzheimer’s disease, as well as metabolism issues and psychiatric disorders such as depression.

It’s been… read more

How does a long time in space affect human health?

March 23, 2015

Astronaut Scott Kelly preparing for launch on one-year mission (credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

As NASA astronaut Scott Kelly launches for the International Space Station Friday, March 27, Northwestern University scientists will be watching with more than a passing interest. Scott Kelly is half of their experiment.

A Northwestern-led research team is one of 10 NASA-funded groups across the country studying identical twins Scott and Mark Kelly to learn how living in space for a long period of time — such as a… read more

Search for extraterrestrial intelligence extends to near-infrared optical signals

New instrument will scan the sky for coded pulses of infrared light
March 23, 2015

The NIROSETI team with their new infrared detector inside the dome at Lick Observatory. Left to right: Remington Stone, Dan Wertheimer, Jérome Maire, Shelley Wright, Patrick Dorval and Richard Treffers. (credit: © Laurie Hatch)

Astronomers have expanded the search for extraterrestrial intelligence into a new realm with detectors tuned to infrared light.

The idea was first proposed by Charles Townes, the late UC Berkeley scientist whose contributions to the development of lasers led to a Nobel Prize, in a paper [1] published in 1961.

Pulses from a powerful near-infrared laser could outshine a star, if only for a billionth of a second.… read more

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Latest blog posts

Internet radio without the Internet

New high-quality music service to offer 40 million songs, using caching instead of streaming; launches Tuesday on Kickstarter
March 23, 2015 by Amara D. Angelica

AIVVY headset (credit: AIVVY)

I got this G+ post today from Martine Rothblatt, CEO of United Therapeutics:
Very excited. Tomorrow [Tuesday March 24] 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 data streaming radio, but withread 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’s music-tech breakthroughs: the 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 Percolate 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

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

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