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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

billions_of_planets

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

Ray Kurzweil’s How to Create a Mind published

November 13, 2012

Ray Kurzweil’s new book — How to Create a Mind: The Secret of Human Thought Revealed* — was published today, Nov. 13, Viking has announced.

The book opened on Monday as #1 among all books on the Barnes & Noble bestseller list. It is now available from the book website or from all major booksellers, and available in all popular e-book formats.… read more

NSA cracks most Internet encryption, inserts back doors, The New York Times reveals

September 6, 2013

NSA

The NSA has circumvented or cracked much of the encryption, or digital scrambling, that guards global commerce and banking systems, protects sensitive data like trade secrets and medical records, and automatically secures the e-mails, Web searches, Internet chats, and phone calls of Americans and others around the world, The New York Times reports.

The agency, according to documents provided  to The Times and ProPublica by Edward J. Snowden… read more

Brainy beverage: study reveals how green tea boosts brain cell production to aid memory

September 7, 2012

Green tea leaves steeping in a gaiwan (credit: Wikimol/Wikimedia Commons)

It has long been believed that drinking green tea is good for the memory. Now Chinese researchers have discovered how the chemical properties of China’s favorite drink affect the generation of brain cells, providing benefits for memory and spatial learning.

The researchers, led by Professor Yun Bai from the Third Military Medical University, Chongqing, China, focused on the organic chemical EGCG (epigallocatechin-3 gallate), the major polyphenol in green tea.… read more

XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the Internet’

NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches of emails, social media activity, and browsing history
August 1, 2013

XKeyscore map

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals — its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the Internet — according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden, Guardian columnist Glenn Greenwald reported Wednesday.

The latest revelations come as senior intelligence officials… read more

The most important education technology in 200 years

November 3, 2012

NLP_course

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

‘Mind uploading’ featured in academic journal special issue for first time

June 26, 2012

uploading

The Special Issue on Mind Uploading (Vol. 4, issue 1, June 2012) of the International Journal of Machine Consciousness, just released, “constitutes a significant milestone in the history of mind uploading research: the first-ever collection of scientific and philosophical papers on the theme of mind uploading,” as Ben Goertzel and Matthew Ikle’ note in the Introduction to this issue.

“Mind uploading” is an informal term that refers to… read more

INFERNOS project: Maxwell’s Demon in nanoscale systems

October 11, 2013

infernos-project

The European INFERNOS (Information, fluctuations, and energy control in small systems) project aims to realize experimentally Maxwell’s Demon* by developing electronic and biomolecular nanodevices that support this principle.

Project partners met earlier this week at the Faculty of Physics of the University of Barcelona. The project is centered on considering information as a thermodynamic parameter.

Its ideas may be applied to different… read more

NSA scans 75% of the Internet

August 21, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday the existence of several NSA programs that allow for far greater surveillance than the government has admitted to, and, importantly, detail how the government forces Internet service providers (ISPs) to hand over raw data, TechCrunch reports.

The programs have the ability to “reach roughly 75% of all U.S. Internet traffic,” according to the Journal, “including a wide array of… read more

IBM to announce low-cost, more-powerful cloud-based Watson

November 14, 2013

IBM Watson computer

On Thursday, IBM will announce that Watson will be available to companies, academics and individual software developers as a cloud product that is “more than twice as powerful via the Internet … and at a small fraction of the previous cost,” The New York Times revealed Wednesday.

In October,  IBM announced that “organizations gaining competitive advantage through high cloud adoption are reporting almost double the revenue… read more

You don’t ‘own’ your own genes

All human genes are patented many times over.
March 28, 2013

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Court-proposed molecular points of distinction that allow claims on isolated DNA sequences. On the basis of two molecular changes (small circles) to a single phosphate and one hydroxyl group, the Federal Circuit court suggested that a new DNA fragment is patentable subject matter. (Credit: Genome Medicine)

Humans no longer “own” their own genes.

The more than 40,000 patents on DNA molecules have allowed companies to essentially claim the entire human genome for profit, report two researchers. Their study, published March 25 in the journal Genome Medicine, raises an alarm about the loss of individual “genomic liberty.”

The research team examined two types of patented DNA sequences: long and short fragments. They discovered… read more

Can Neanderthals be brought back from the dead?

January 22, 2013

400px-George_Church_at_TED

In a SPIEGEL interview, synthetic biology expert and Harvard University professor of genetics George Church explains how DNA will become the building material of the future — one that can help create virus-resistant human beings and possibly bring back lost species like the Neanderthal.

In his new book, “Regenesis: How Synthetic Biology Will Reinvent Nature and Ourselves,” which he has also… read more

Revolutionary space engine turns an airplane into a spaceplane

July 1, 2013

skylon

A revolutionary engine that can turn an aircraft into an orbiting spaceplane has won fresh backing from the British Government.

The hybrid engine called Skylon (Synergistic Air-Breathing Rocket Engine) — is currently being developed by Reaction Engines, SEN reports.

Until now, spacecraft heading for orbit have had to be launched by conventional rockets because of the amount of fuel needed to be get them… read more

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