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Are you ready for a robot that learns on the Internet?

August 2, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

A robot said to think, learn, and act by itself (credit: Tokyo Institute of Technology)

A humanoid robot that “learns from the Internet and from other robots” and can “think, learn, and act by itself” has been developed by the Hasegawa Lab at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, DigInfo TV reports.

OK, this is freaking me out just a little. I don’t want a bot that learns on the Internet how to make me green tea (see video),… read more

Molecular cut and paste

July 28, 2011 by William Mcewan

Future Science book cover

A combination of cheap DNA synthesis, freely accessible databases, and our ever-expanding knowledge of protein science is conspiring to permit a revolution in creating powerful molecular tools, suggests William McEwan, Ph.D., a virologist at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, U.K., in this excerpt from the new book Future Science: Essays From The Cutting Edge, edited by Max Brockman.

This afternoon I received… read more

The Singularity is Far: A Neuroscientist’s View

July 21, 2011 by David J. Linden

SingularityIsFar

David J. Linden is the author of a new book, The Compass of Pleasure: How Our Brains Make Fatty Foods, Orgasm, Exercise, Marijuana, Generosity, Vodka, Learning, and Gambling Feel So Good. He is a Professor of Neuroscience at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and Chief Editor of the Journal of Neurophysiology.

It should be noted that many of the criticisms in this blog postread more

Google is destroying your memory

July 15, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Well, OK, maybe not totally destroying it, just making it unnecessary to rely on friends, libraries, books, notes, and other forms of “transactive memory” (external systems), thanks to the rise of Internet search engines, Wikipedia, and other Internet tools.

So says Columbia University psychologist Betsy Sparrow, co-author of an article in Science Express.

“Since the advent of search engines, we are… read more

How to preserve competing memories by zapping your brain

July 12, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Attention, mind-control victims: mad scientists want to zap your brain. But you knew that.

It’s a problem every student has when cramming for an exam: some of the information is usually forgotten. The common belief is that your brain simply doesn’t have the capacity necessary to process both memories in quick succession. But is that true?

Researchers at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) decided… read more

Sex and the Red Queen hypothesis

July 12, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Off with their heads! (Credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Biologists at Indiana University have discovered why it takes two to tango. (Insert obligatory geeks-who-can’t-get-a-date joke here.)

The biologists claim their research shows that sex allows parents to produce offspring that are more resistant to co-evolving parasites, while self-fertilization dooms populations to extinction at the hands of their biological enemies.

It’s the Red Queen hypothesis, a reference to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland: “It takes all… read more

Thinking quantitatively about technological progress

July 11, 2011 by Anders Sandberg

Production growing exponentially (credit: Béla Nagy, Santa Fe Institute)

I have been thinking about progress a bit recently, mainly because I would like to develop a mathematical model of how brain scanning technology and computational neuroscience might develop.

Experience curves

In general, I think the most solid evidence of technological progress is Wrightean experience curves. These are well documented in economics and found everywhere: typically the cost (or time) of manufacturing… read more

Grow a new eye

July 11, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

EyeTanya

“I am attempting to recreate my eye with the help of a miniature camera implant in my prosthetic artificial eye. The intraocular installation of an eye-cam will substitute for the field of vision of my left eye that I lost in 2005 from a car accident.”

So says Tanya Marie Vlach, who lost her left eye in a car accident. After she received “hundreds of international engineering proposals, support from my … read more

Can taking probiotics improve your mental health?

July 6, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Gastrointestinal system (credit: iStockphoto)

Professor Mark Lyte and associates at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center have come up with a radical concept: that you may be able to fine-tune your mental and emotional states by the right combination of probiotics!

Probiotics are “good” bacteria that normally reside in your gut and are available OTC in any drug store or health food store. Lyte suggests that they can generate… read more

How to measure emotions

July 6, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Q Sensor Curve is designed to wear on the wrist, so it is comfortable and unobtrusive to wear all day at work, play, or sleep. This makes it ideal for long-term measurement in clinical and therapeutic research. (Credit: Affectiva)

Are you a geek who has trouble “reading” people? Now there new hope.

Research at the MIT Media Lab and the University of Cambridge to help people on the autism spectrum has spawned two new technologies to measure emotional response, along with a company called Affectiva to market them.

In the videos below, MIT’s Dr. Rosalind Picard demonstrates these technologies.

The Affectiva Qread more

Stoner alert: McDonald’s gets you legally high

July 5, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

(Credit: McDonald's)

Fats in foods like potato chips and french fries make them nearly irresistible because they trigger natural marijuana-like chemicals in the body called endocannabinoids, researchers at the University of California, Irvine, have found.

The researchers discovered that when rats tasted something fatty, cells in their upper gut started producing endocannabinoids, while sugars and proteins did not have this effect.

How fats create,read more

How to remote-control a robot on another planet

July 4, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

justin_the_robot

Meet Justin, an android on Earth who will soon be controlled remotely by an astronaut in the European Space Agency’s Columbus laboratory on the International Space Station. The astronaut will don an exoskeleton to remotely control Justin.

The long-range goal: explore the Moon and planets with tele-operated robots.

How your memories can be twisted under social pressure

July 4, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

False memories show a strong co-activation and connectivity between two brain areas: the hippocampus and the amygdala (credit: Weizmann Institute)

Listen up, Facebook and Twitter groupies: how easily can social pressure affect your memory?

Very easily, researchers at the Weizmann Institute and University College London have proved, and they think they even know what part of the brain is responsible.

The participants conformed to the group on these “planted” responses, giving incorrect answers nearly 70% of the time.

Volunteers watched a… read more

Are you ready for robots with sensitive skin?

June 30, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Robots have just taken another (slightly weird) step toward becoming our overlords.

Technische Universität München (TUM) scientists are developing an artificial skin for robots that will provide tactile information to the robot to supplement information from cameras, infrared scanners, and gripping hands.

The idea is to let the robot know when it touches an object so it can then visually search for whatever it… read more

The physics of Jackson Pollock

June 30, 2011 by Amara D. Angelica

Jackson-Pollock

Can you tell the difference between a painting by an elephant and Jackson Pollack? (Take this test before reading further.)

A mathematician at Harvard University and a physicist-art historian at Boston College think they can. Pollock was an “intuitive master” of laws that govern the flow of liquids under gravity, they believe.

The researchers examined the black and red painting “Untitled… read more

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