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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

NASA aims for human rendezvous at Mars in 2033

May 24, 2012

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It would be the most precious cargo since the Apollo astronauts returned Moon rocks to Earth.

In 2033, humans would arrive in Mars orbit to pick up and return to Earth a small collection of Mars rocks that would have been previously collected and put into orbit.

An internal NASA study group, tasked with replanning the agency’s beleaguered Mars program, revealed onread more

IBM ships Watson system to RPI researchers to develop new markets

January 31, 2013

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IBM announced Wednesday that it will provide a modified version of an IBM Watson system to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, making it the first university to receive such a system.

The Watson system will enable upstate New York-based RPI to find new uses for Watson and deepen the systems’ cognitive capabilities, IBM says.

Watson has a unique ability to understand the subtle nuances of human language, sift… read more

Building a lunar base with 3D printing

February 1, 2013

Lunar base made with 3D printing (credit: ESA)

Setting up a lunar base could be made much simpler by using a 3D printer to build it from local materials.

Renowned architects Foster + Partners have joined with ESA to test the feasibility of 3D printing using simulated lunar soil (regolith).

The architects devised a weight-bearing “catenary” dome design with a cellular structured wall to shield against micrometeoroids and space radiation, incorporating a… read more

‘You, Robot’: personal robots for the masses

July 20, 2012

Bina48 android (credit:

What would it be like if you could transfer your personal data, your consciousness, to a robot or a machine?”

That’s what almost every major technology organization seems to be asking, says Huffington Post blogger  Lucas Kavner.

Examples:

  • Terasem’s LifeNaut project allows you to create a mindfile for yourself, or anybody else close to you, using photos and online data and other “digital reflections” you

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

Scientists achieve fuel gain exceeding unity in confined fusion implosion

February 13, 2014

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The milestone of achieving fuel gains greater than 1 has been reached at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) National Ignition Facility (NIF) — for the first time ever at any facility.

Ignition — the process of releasing fusion energy equal to or greater than the amount of energy used to confine the fuel — has long been considered the “holy grail” of inertial confinement… read more

NSA hacks Yahoo, Google data-center cables worldwide

October 30, 2013

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The NSA has secretly broken into fiber-optic cables that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world — positioning itself to collect at will from hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials, the Washington Post reported today.

According to a top-secret accounting dated… read more

The most important education technology in 200 years

November 3, 2012

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Education is about to change dramatically, says Anant Agarwal, who heads edX, a $60 million MIT-Harvard effort to stream a college education over the Web, free, with plans to teach a billion students, Technology Review reports.

“Massive open online courses,” or MOOCs, offered by new education ventures like edX, Coursera, and Udacity, to name the most prominent (see “The Crisis in Higher Education”) will affect markets… read more

Robotics experts to debate ‘killer robots’ policies at UN

May 13, 2014

Crusher unmanned ground combat vehicle (credit: National Robotics Engineering Center of Carnegie Mellon University)

A leading robotics expert, Professor Noel Sharkey from the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, will speak to the United Nations in Geneva from May 13–16 to help global leaders understand the pros and cons of lethal autonomous weapons systems.

Sharkey is holding a debate with Professor Ronald Arkin from the Georgia Institute of Technology at the UN’s Convention of Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW) in Geneva to… read more

This is what Wall Street’s terrifying robot invasion looks like

August 8, 2012

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This animated GIF chronicles the rise of the HFT Algo Machines from January 2007 through January 2012 (credit: Nanex Research, hosted by imgur.com)

Given the the endless mind-whirling acronyms, derivatives and structures of the financial markets, we’re rarely served with a visualization that so elegantly illustrates the arrival of Wall Street’s latest innovation.

This is what high frequency trading looks like, when specially… read more

The UN fought the Internet — and the Internet won

December 14, 2012

Main Conference room at Day 4, WCIT 2012, Dubai, UAE (credit: ITU)

For the last two weeks some of the planet’s most oppressive regimes have faced off against some of the most powerful Internet advocates in an effort to rewrite a multilateral communications treaty that, if successful, could have changed the nature of the Internet and altered the way it is governed, Forbes reports.

On Thursday night that effort failed, as a U.S.-led block of dissenting countries refused to… read more

Is a scientific definition of consciousness possible?

Consciousness arises from the mode in which billions of neurons communicate with one another, psychologists suggest
October 20, 2013

Parcellation of brain data into 194 cortical, subcortical and cerebellar ROIs.

UCLA psychologists have used brain-imaging techniques to study what happens to the human brain when it slips into unconsciousness.

Their research, published in the online open-access journal PLOS Computational Biology, is an initial step toward developing a scientific definition of consciousness, the researchers say.

“In terms of brain function, the difference between being conscious and unconscious is a bit like the difference between driving… read more

Billions and billions of planets

January 4, 2013

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How many planets are in our galaxy?

Billions and billions of them at least. That’s the conclusion of a new study by astronomers at the California Institute of Technology, which provides yet more evidence that planetary systems are the cosmic norm.

The team made their estimate while analyzing planets orbiting a star called Kepler-32 — planets that are representative, they say, of the vast majority… read more

Breakthrough in hydrogen fuel production could ‘revolutionize alternative energy market’

April 9, 2013

Sources of hydrogen: plants (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

A team of Virginia Tech researchers has discovered a way to extract large quantities of hydrogen from any plant, a breakthrough that has the potential to bring a low-cost, environmentally friendly fuel source to the world, the researchers say.

“Our new process could help end our dependence on fossil fuels,” said Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering in the College of Agricultureread more

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