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Discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons corroborates controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness

January 16, 2014

Structure of a microtubule. The ring shape depicts a microtubule in cross-section, showing the 13 protofilaments surrounding a hollow center. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A review and update of a controversial 20-year-old theory of consciousness published in  Elsevier’s Physics of Life Reviews (open access) claims that consciousness derives from deeper-level, finer-scale activities inside brain neurons.

The recent discovery of quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons corroborates this theory, according to review authors Stuart Hameroff and Sir Roger Penrose. They suggest that EEG rhythms (brain waves) also derive from deeper level… read more

Huge Mars colony eyed by SpaceX founder Elon Musk

November 25, 2012

marslandingspacex

Elon Musk, the billionaire founder and CEO of the private spaceflight company SpaceX, wants to help establish a Mars colony of up to 80,000 people by ferrying explorers there for perhaps $500,000 a trip, Space.com reports.

In Musk’s vision, the ambitious Mars settlement program would start with a pioneering group of fewer than 10 people.

Accompanying the founders of the new Marsread more

Musk reveals Hyperloop concept

August 13, 2013

Hyperloop passenger transport

Elon Musk has published a blog post detailing the Hyperloop concept; a solar-powered, elevated transit system that could take passengers and cars from Los Angeles to San Francisco in 30 minutes.

Here are the core designs. Bloomberg has further details.

Can DARPA spark a DIY brain-scanning movement?

September 30, 2013

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A working prototype of a low-cost electroencephalography device funded by the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) made its debut in New York this weekend, the first step in the agency’s effort to jumpstart a do-it-yourself revolution in neuroscience, The Verge reports.

Dr. Bill Casebeer, a DARPA program manager, is hoping to spark a neuroscience fad within the maker movement. His goal is to return to… read more

Mars may get hit by a comet in 2014

March 4, 2013

(Credit: Image credit: Mars: NASA/JPL/MSSS; Comet Halley: Hale Observatory; composite: Phil Plait)

A comet called C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is expected to miss Mars around Oct. 19, 2014 by 37,000 km (23,000 miles), says Bad Astronomy Slate blogger Phil Plait.

Assuming it does hit, while the nucleus size is not well known, it may be as small as 15 kilometers (9 miles) or as big as 50 km (30 miles). Even using the small number means Mars would… read more

Uncommon features of Einstein’s brain might explain his remarkable cognitive abilities

November 23, 2012

Photographs of the left lateral surface of Einstein’s brain (credit: National Museum of Health and Medicine)

Portions of Albert Einstein’s brain have been found to be unlike those of most people and could be related to his extraordinary cognitive abilities, according to a new study led by Florida State University evolutionary anthropologist Dean Falk.

Falk and colleagues examined the entire cerebral cortex of Einstein’s brain based on 14 recently discovered photographs. The researchers compared Einstein’s brain to 85 “normal” human brains… read more

Metallic 3D carbon discovered

New metallic structure may be stable at ambient temperature and pressure, with potential applications ranging from electronics and superconductivity to lightweight space materials
November 8, 2013

3D Metallic carbon with interlocking hexagons (credit: Qian Wang, Ph.D.)

A theoretical, three-dimensional (3D) form of carbon that is metallic under ambient temperature and pressure has been discovered by an international research team.

The search for this form of carbon has remained an ongoing challenge for scientists in the field.

Researchers from Peking University, Virginia Commonwealth University and Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics employed state-of-the-art theoretical methods to show that it is possible to manipulate carbon… read more

Scientists see promise in deep-learning programs

November 27, 2012

speech_translation_microsoft

Using deep learning, an AI technique inspired by theories about how the brain recognizes patterns, technology companies are reporting startling gains in fields as diverse as computer vision, speech recognition and the identification of promising new molecules for designing drugs, The New York Times reports.

The advances have led to widespread enthusiasm among researchers who design software to perform human activities like seeing, listening and thinking. They offer… read more

A cure for type 1 diabetes

February 14, 2013

Diabetic dog cured from the disease

Researchers at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) have succeeded in completely curing type 1 diabetes in dogs with a single session of gene therapy by introducing a “glucose sensor” into muscle.

This is the first time the disease has been cured in large animals, a fundamental step towards applying the therapy in humans. The dogs recovered their health and no longer show symptoms of the… read more

How improved batteries will make electric vehicles competitive

It will likely take a decade, but improvements to lithium-ion batteries could lead to much cheaper EVs
November 9, 2012

Electric cars like the Nissan Leaf are expensive. Cheaper batteries could eventually change that. (Credit: Tennen-Gas/Wikimedia Commons)

For electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids to compete with gas-powered cars, battery prices need to drop by between 50 and 80 percent, according to recent estimates by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Improvements to the lithium-ion batteries that power the current generation of electric vehicles may be enough, MIT Technology Review reports.

Electric vehicles costread more

Wanted: Mars colonists to explore red planet

January 9, 2013

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The Netherlands-based nonprofit Mars One, which hopes to put the first astronauts on the Red Planet in 2023, released its basic astronaut requirements on Jan. 8, setting the stage for a televised global selection process that will begin later this year, Space.com reports.

Anyone who is at least 18 years old can apply to become a Mars colony pioneer. The most important criteria, officials say, are intelligence,… read more

Introducing ATLAS, DARPA’s most advanced robot

Let's get ready to rescue
July 12, 2013

Atlas robot (credit: DARPA)

He stands at 6′ 2, 330 pounds. His name: ATLAS — possibly the most advanced humanoid robot every built.

Move over Petman. The mighty ATLAS, Boston Dynamics‘ new robot, sports an on-board real-time control computer, 28 hydraulically actuated joints, two sets of hands, and a sensor head with LIDAR (measures distance with a laser, as in Google’s self-driving car) and stereo vision… read more

Russia asteroid impact: ESA update and assessment

February 22, 2013

The estimated orbit around the Sun of the Chelyabinsk object. It illustrates the orbits of Venus, Mars and Earth, together with the Sun and Earth at impact. The illustration is based on data provided by Dr Peter Brown. (Credit: NASA)

The first firm details of the 15 February asteroid impact in Russia, the largest in more than a century, are becoming clear. ESA is carefully assessing the information as crucial input for developing the Agency’s asteroid-hunting effort.

At 03:20 GMT on 15 February, a natural object entered the atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Extensive video records indicate a northeast to… read more

What will your next body be like?

December 25, 2012

A scene from R.U.R., showing three robots (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“Many engineers, including me, think that some time around 2050, we will be able to make very high quality links between the brains and machines. … If your mind is so well connected, you could inhabit a new body, without having to vacate your existing one,” suggests futurologist Ian Pearson.

“Using a detachable brain is one option, or not to put a brain in at all, using empty immobile husks that… read more

Thought experiment: build a supercomputer replica of the human brain

May 17, 2013

Neocortical column in Henry Markram's Blue Brain project (Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

Henry Markram’s Human Brain Project (HBP), backed by 1 billion euros ($1.3 billion) funding Jan. 2013 from the European Commission, plans to integrate findings from the Allen Brain Atlas, the National Institutes of Health-funded Human Connectome Project, and the Brain (“Brain Activity Map”) project, Wired reports.

The HBP is an ambitious attempt to build a complete model of a human brain using predictive reverse-engineering and simulate it… read more

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