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Can robots be trusted to know right from wrong?

May 12, 2014

HAL 9000 (credit: Warner Bros.)

Is it possible to develop “moral” autonomous robots with a sense for right, wrong, and the consequences of both?

Researchers from Tufts University, Brown University, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute think so, and are teaming with the U.S. Navy to explore technology that would pave the way to do exactly that.

“Moral competence can be roughly thought about as the ability to learn,… read more

Scientists create new lifeform with added DNA base pair

May 9, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have engineered a bacterium whose genetic material includes an added pair of DNA “letters” (bases) not found in nature.

The research was intended to created new proteins — and even new organisms — that have never existed before.

“Life on Earth in all its diversity is encoded by only two pairs of DNA bases, A-T and C-G,read more

GaitTrack app makes cellphone a medical monitor for heart and lung patients

May 9, 2014

(Credit: University of Illinois)

By simply carrying around their cellphones, patients who suffer from chronic disease could soon have an accurate health monitor that warns their doctors when their symptoms worsen.

GaitTrack, an app developed by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the U. of I. at Chicago, doesn’t just count steps. It uses eight parameters to perform a detailed analysis of a person’s gait, orread more

Brain ‘noise’ found to nurture synapses

May 8, 2014

McCabe-CUMC-image-brain-noise

A long-overlooked form of neuron-to-neuron communication called “miniature neurotransmission” plays an essential role in the development of synapses, a study by researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has shown.

The findings, made in fruit flies, raise the possibility that abnormalities in miniature neurotransmission may contribute to neurodevelopmental diseases. The findings were published in the journal Neuron.

The primary way in which neurons communicate with each… read more

Astronomers create first realistic virtual universe

May 8, 2014

illustris-simulation

Astronomers have created the first realistic virtual universe using a computer simulation called “Illustris.”

Illustris can recreate 13 billion years of cosmic evolution in a cube 350 million light-years on a side with unprecedented resolution.

“Until now, no single simulation was able to reproduce the universe on both large and small scales simultaneously,” says lead author Mark Vogelsberger (MIT/Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics),… read more

Imaging the crystal edges of 2D molybdenum disulfide

Another step toward novel 2D ultrasmall and ultrafast electronic and photonic devices, replacing silicon
May 8, 2014

Xiang-Zhang-crystal-images

Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have recorded the first observations of a strong nonlinear optical resonance along the edges of a single layer of two-dimensional molybdenum disulfide, which may enable novel ultrasmall and ultrafast electronic and photonic devicesas well as a catalyst for the hydrogen evolution reaction in fuel cells, desulfurization, andread more

Are you ready for contact with extraterrestrial intelligence?

May 7, 2014

Are-we-ready-for-contact-with-extraterrestrial-intelligence_image_380

Some SETI (search for extraterrestrial intelligence) scientists are considering “Active SETI” to detect possible extraterrestrial civilizations.

Psychologist Gabriel G. de la Torre, professor at the University of Cádiz (Spain) questions this idea, based on results* from a survey taken by students, which revealed a general level of ignorance about the cosmos and the influence of religion on these matters.

Some astrophysicists, such as Stephen… read more

Oculus suggests a massively multiplayer online experience (MMO) for one billion simultaneous users in VR

May 7, 2014

(Credit: Condition-One)

Oculus CEO Brendan Iribe suggested at the Techcrunch Disrupt event Monday May 5 that Oculus and Facebook could in the future build a massively multiplayer online experience (MMO) for one billion simultaneous users in VR, according to The Verge. It could also be a metaverse that joins disparate virtual worlds.

Oculus hopes to convince players that they’re having a “real conversation” with another person. … read more

Humanized pig organs to revolutionize transplantation

Initial focus: the almost 400,000 people who die from lung disease, including cancer, each year
May 7, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

Genome pioneer J. Craig Venter’s Synthetic Genomics Inc. (SGI) is teaming up with United Therapeutics Corporation subsidiary Lung Biotechnology Inc. to use synthetic genomic advances to develop humanized pig lungs.

The collaboration will focus on creating organs that are safe and effective for use in human patients in need of transplantation, with an initial focus on lung diseases — addressing specifically the urgent need… read more

Genetic algorithm used to design broadband metamaterial

May 7, 2014

psu_metamaterial

Penn State engineers have used a genetic algorithm to custom-design a metamaterial to absorb energy over a broad band of infrared wavelengths.

The engineers say this allows the metamaterial to shield objects from view by infrared sensors and protect instruments, for example.

“The metamaterial has a high absorption over broad bandwidth,” said Jeremy A. Bossard, postdoctoral fellow in electrical engineering.… read more

Stem cells from teeth can make neuron-like cells and networks

May 6, 2014

mouse-derived dental pulp stem cell

University of Adelaide researchers have discovered that stem cells taken from teeth can grow to form complex networks of neuron-like cells, suggesting a possible therapy for stroke.

Although these cells haven’t developed into fully fledged neurons, researchers believe it’s just a matter of time and the right conditions for it to happen.

“Stem cells from teeth have great potential to grow into new brain or nerve… read more

How to change the crystal structure of graphene from metal to semiconductor

Could lead to smaller, faster microprocessors
May 6, 2014

graphene hexagon Pablo San-Jose ICMM-CSI

A University of Arizona-led team of physicists has discovered how to change the crystal structure of graphene with an electric field — a step toward the possible use of graphene in microprocessors that would be smaller and faster than current, silicon-based technology.

The tricky part is to control the flow of electrons through the material, a necessary prerequisite for using it an electronic circuit.… read more

Bone marrow-on-a-chip unveiled

May 6, 2014

Microscopic view of the engineered bone with an opening exposing the internal trabecular bony network, overlaid with colored images of blood cells and a supportive vascular network that fill the open spaces in the bone marrow-on-a-chip. Credit: James Weaver, Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

A new organ-on-a-chip developed by researchers from Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering reproduces the structure, functions, and cellular make-up of bone marrow, a complex tissue that until now could only be studied intact in living animals.

The device, dubbed “bone marrow-on-a-chip,” gives scientists a much-needed new tool to test the effects of new drugs and toxic agents on whole bone marrow.

Specifically, the device… read more

Functioning of aged brains and muscles in mice made younger

Could reverse cognitive decline from aging in humans
May 6, 2014

Confocal images of coronal subventricular zone (SVZ) sections showing that 22-month-old mice injected with rGDF11 for 4 weeks have (A) enhanced vascularization as well as (B) increased Sox2+ neural stem cell populations, compared with those of control (credit: L. Katsimpardi et al./Science)

A protein known as GDF11 improves brain and skeletal muscle function in aging mice, Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI) researchers have shown. The researchers previously demonstrated that GDF11 can make the failing hearts in aging mice appear more like those of young mice.

In two separate papers published online May 4 in the journal Science, Professors Amy Wagers, PhD, and Lee Rubin,read more

Want to live to 90?

May 5, 2014

(Credit: CBS)

A landmark study of retirement community residents who lived past 90 is providing a guide that could help.

They’re  called “the oldest old.” They are people age 90 and above, and they are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population. Now a landmark study of thousands of members of a retirement community in Southern California is revealing factors that may contribute to living longer. Some of the findings are… read more

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