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Listening to the Big Bang — in high fidelity audio

April 8, 2013

A decade ago, University of Washington physicist John Cramer devised an audio recreation of the Big Bang that started our universe nearly 14 billion years ago.

Now, armed with more sophisticated data from a satellite mission observing the cosmic microwave background — a faint glow in the universe that acts as sort of a fossilized fingerprint of the Big Bang — Cramer has produced new … read more

As workload overwhelms, cars are set to intervene

April 8, 2013

Cars

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued voluntary accessory-design guidelines in an effort to reduce distraction, but given consumers’ hunger for gadgets, managing those distractions to reduce workload may prove a better solution, The New York Times reports.

The overload of inputs, perhaps amplified by foul weather or a demanding toddler, presents a real challenge to the driver — and a danger to all road users. … read more

Can an algorithm write a better news story than a human reporter?

April 8, 2013

narrative-science

Every 30 seconds or so, an algorithm developed by Narrative Science produces a computer-written news story, Wired reports.

The articles run on the websites of respected publishers like Forbes, as well as other Internet media powers (many of which are keeping their identities private).

Niche news services hire Narrative Science to write updates for their subscribers, be they sports fans, small-cap investors, or fast-food… read more

How to store images in a cloud of moving atoms

April 5, 2013

cloud_atoms_memory

Scientists at the Joint Quantum Institute (JQI) of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Maryland have demonstrated that they can store visual images in a thin vapor of rubidium atoms.

The effort may prove helpful in creating memory for quantum computers.

Their work builds on an approach developed at the Australian National University, where scientists showed that a rubidium… read more

Computers to grade tests and essays at college level: EdX

April 5, 2013

student-laptop-cheering

 

Imagine taking a college exam and receiving a grade back instantly, your essay scored by a software program. Then immediately redoing the test to try to improve your grade.

EdX, the nonprofit enterprise founded by Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to offer courses on the Internet, has just introduced such software. It can grade student essays and short written answers, freeing… read more

NIH explains Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) initiative

April 5, 2013

human_connectome

The National Institute of Health (NIH) has provided further details on the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative announced April 2 by President Obama, aimed at revolutionizing our understanding of the human brain.

By accelerating the development and application of innovative technologies, researchers will be able to produce a revolutionary new dynamic picture of the brain that, for the first time, shows how… read more

Detected excess of positrons in cosmic ray flux may be signal of dark matter

Excess of positrons in the cosmic ray flux suggests the possibility
April 4, 2013

From its vantage point ~260 miles (~400 km) above the Earth, the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) collects data from primordial cosmic rays that traverse the detector (credit: NASA)

The international team running the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer (AMS) — located on the exterior of the International Space Station (ISS) — today announced the first results in its search for dark matter.

The results, presented by AMS spokesperson Professor Samuel Ting in a seminar at CERN, are to be published in the journal Physical Review Letters. They report the observation of an excess of positrons in the… read more

Using sounds to reveal the shape of the Universe

April 4, 2013

Hubble ultra deep field image (credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team)

As the universe expands, it is continually subjected to energy shifts, or “quantum fluctuations,” that send out little pulses of “sound” into the fabric of spacetime. In fact, the universe is thought to have sprung from just such an energy shift.

A recent paper in the journal Physical Review Letters reports a new mathematical tool that should allow one to use these sounds to help reveal the shape of… read more

Ability to ‘think about thinking’ not limited to humans

Another distinction between "humans" and "animals" removed
April 4, 2013

Chimpanzee (credit: Thomas Lersch/Wikimedia Commons)

Humans’ closest animal relatives, chimpanzees, have metacognition — knowing what one knows, according to new research by scientists at Georgia State University and the University at Buffalo.

“The demonstration of metacognition in nonhuman primates has important implications regarding the emergence of self-reflective mind during humans’ cognitive evolution,” the research team noted.

Metacognition is the ability to recognize one’s own cognitive states. For example, a game show… read more

All-optical switching promises terahertz-speed hard drive and RAM memory

April 4, 2013

Magnetic structure in a colossal magneto-resistive manganite is<br />
switched from antiferromagnetic to ferromagnetic ordering during<br />
about 100 femtosecond laser pulse photo-excitation (credit: DOE Ames Laboratory)

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory, Iowa State University, and the University of Crete in Greece have found a new way to switch magnetism that is at least 1000 times faster than currently used in magnetic memory technologies.

Magnetic switching is used to encode information in hard drives, magnetic random access memory and other computing devices. The discovery, reported in the April 4 issue… read more

Astronomers anticipate 100 billion Earth-like planets

April 4, 2013

Milky Way Galaxy (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

University of Auckland researchers have proposed a new method for finding Earth-like planets in our galaxy and they anticipate that the number will be on the order of 100 billion.

The research supports an earlier estimate based on extrapolations of Kepler data.

The new research uses a technique called gravitational microlensing, currently used by a Japan-New Zealand collaboration called MOA (Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics)… read more

Easing brain fatigue with a walk in the park

April 3, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

An innovative new study from Scotland confirms the observation that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park, The New York Times reports.

Researchers have long theorized that green spaces are calming, requiring less of our so-called directed mental attention than busy, urban streets do, but it had not been possible to study the brains of people while they were actually outside, moving… read more

Another step toward quantum computers: using photons for memory

April 3, 2013

one-qubit device

Scientists at Yale University have found a way to use microwave photons to store quantum information.

Photons can carry and hold quantum information for a long time, because they interact weakly with the media they typically travel through — coaxial cables, wires, or air, for example.

The weakness of these interactions prevents the photons from being absorbed by the medium and preserves the quantum… read more

Could robots become ‘aware’ of their own limitations?

April 3, 2013

(credit: Allegra Boverman and Christine Daniloff/MIT)

MIT researchers have developed software for robots that enables them to be more “aware” of their own limitations, such as knowing the whereabouts of an object, or its own location within a room.

Most successful robots today tend to be used either in fixed, carefully controlled environments, such as manufacturing plants, or for performing fairly simple tasks such as vacuuming a room,

But carrying out complicated sequences… read more

Helmet with ultrasound sensors could help firefighters detect objects in the dark

April 3, 2013

helmet

A “tactile helmet” with ultrasound sensors has been developed by researchers at the University of Sheffield Center for Robotics. It could provide fire-fighters operating in the dark or other challenging conditions with vital clues about their surroundings.

The helmet has a number of ultrasound sensors that are used to detect the distances between the helmet and nearby walls or other obstacles. These signals are transmitted to… read more

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