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New solar-cell design combines quantum dots with nanowires

MIT researchers improve efficiency of quantum-dot photovoltaic system by adding a forest of nanowires
March 26, 2013


MIT researchers have boosted solar cell performance with quantum dots by embedding them in a forest of nanowires.

Photovoltaics (PVs) based on tiny colloidal quantum dots have several potential advantages over other approaches to making solar cells: They can be manufactured in a room-temperature process, saving energy and avoiding complications associated with high-temperature processing of silicon and other PV materials.

They can be made… read more

Who lives longest?

March 26, 2013

(Credit: World Life Expectancy)

Life expectancy is an average, and it fluctuates with age as the risks we face change throughout our lifetimes. Both those facts make it a frequently misunderstood statistic, The New York Times reports.

High infant-mortality rates depress the figure substantially. This can lead contemporary observers to the false conclusion that most humans died quite young, even in the not-so-distant past.

Before the Upper Paleolithic, early humans really… read more

Brain mapping reveals neurological basis of decision-making in rats

March 26, 2013


UC San Francisco scientists have discovered how memory recall is linked to decision-making in rats, showing that activity in the hippocampus occurs when rats in a maze are playing out memories that help them decide which way to turn.

The more they play out these memories, the more likely they are to find their way correctly to the end of the maze.

The researchers implanted electrodes directly on… read more

Big banks vs. Bitcoin libertarianism

March 25, 2013


Banks should learn to work with, rather than against, the new role of money in a peer-to-peer landscape, says media theorist and author Douglas Rushkoff writes on Mashable, based on the arguments of his new book, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now.

But many libertarians* would rather bypass, not work with banks.

The hype has never been hotter for the Internet’s crypto-currency Bitcoin, Salonread more

A strange computer promises great speed

March 25, 2013


Academic researchers and scientists at companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard have been working to develop quantum computers.

Now, Lockheed Martin — which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago — is confident enough in the technology to… read more

Serotonin receptors offer clues for antidepressants, consciousness

Shapes of binding sites could help drug discovery and the study of consciousness
March 25, 2013


Researchers have deciphered the molecular structures of two of the brain’s crucial lock-and-key mechanisms, Nature News reports.

The two molecules are receptors for the natural neurotransmitter serotonin — which regulates activities such as sleep, appetite and mood — and could provide targets for future drugs to combat depression, migraines or obesity. They could also help in understanding how the physical structures of the brain produce consciousness.… read more

GOP lawmaker seeks ‘virtual Congress’ with telecommuting plan

March 25, 2013


Under a resolution Pearce introduced on Thursday, Rep. Steve Pearce (R-N.M.) wants to create a “virtual Congress,” where lawmakers would leverage videoconferencing and other remote work technology to to hold hearings, debate and vote on legislation virtually from their home district offices, The Hill reports.

Pearce says the resolution would eradicate the need for members to jet back and forth from their districts to Washington each weekend. This… read more

The future of education eliminates the classroom, because the world is your class

March 25, 2013

Hypercities (credit: UCLA et at.)

Technology can turn our entire lives into learning experiences via “socialstructed learning,” an aggregation of microlearning experiences drawn from a rich ecology of content and driven not by grades but by social and intrinsic rewards, suggests Marina Gorbis, Executive Director at the Institute for the Future, in Fast Company.

“Today’s obsession with MOOCs is a reminder of the old forecasting paradigm: In the early stages of technology… read more

Nanotools for neuroscience and brain activity mapping

Neuroscientists describe specific technologies for the Brain Activity Map project
March 25, 2013


“Neuroscience — one of the greatest challenges facing science and engineering — is at a crossroads. …There exist few general theories or principles that explain brain function [due partly to] limitations in current methodologies,” say neuroscientists in a new ACS Nano open-access paper, “Nanotools for Neuroscience and Brain Activity Mapping.”

Traditional neurophysiological approaches record the activities of one neuron or a few neurons at a time. Neurochemical… read more

Ostrich-inspired robot learns some fancy footwork

March 23, 2013

FastRunner (credit: IHMC)

Meet FastRunner, a bioinspired robot that thinks it’s an ostrich, being built at the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. It’s expected to be the world’s fastest robotic biped, at 22 mph.

Impressive, but no Boston Dynamics Cheetah, at 28.3 mph (on a treadmill) — beating out Usain Bolt’s 27.79 mph.

But FastRunner may soon negotiate more complex environments — ones that Cheetah may fear to tread, thanks to… read more

How would you like to invest in immortality?

March 22, 2013


With his 2045 Initiative, Russian Internet mogul Dmitry Itskov is looking for backers for the world’s first immortality research center.

The new venture sells itself: invest in his new research and development interest and the payoff could be immortality, reports Fortune.

A new corporate entity that the Russian multi-millionaire will formally announce at an event in June will allow investors to bankroll research into neuroscience… read more

IBM scientists discover new liquid molecular technique to charge memory, logic chips

Would use tiny ionic currents, processing data like the human brain
March 22, 2013

ionic liquid device

IBM has announced a materials science breakthrough at the molecular level that could pave the way for a new class of non-volatile memory and logic chips that would use less power than today’s silicon devices.

IBM’s scientists discovered a new way to power chips using tiny ionic currents, which are streams of charged molecules that can mimic the event-driven way in which the human brain operates.

Today’s computers… read more

DARPA envisions the future of machine learning

New wutomated tools aim to make it easier to teach a computer than to program it
March 22, 2013


DARPA has launched a new programming paradigm for managing uncertain information called “Probabilistic Programming for Advanced Machine Learning”(PPAML).

Machine learning — the ability of computers to understand data, manage results, and infer insights from uncertain information — is the force behind many recent revolutions in computing.

Unfortunately, every new machine-learning application requires a Herculean effort. Even a team of specially trained machine learning experts makes only… read more

New cosmic background radiation map challenges some foundations of cosmology

March 22, 2013


The most detailed map ever created of the cosmic microwave background — the relic radiation from the Big Bang — acquired by ESA’s Planck space telescope, has been released, revealing features that challenge the foundations of our current understanding of the Universe and may require new physics.

  • The fluctuations in the CMB temperatures at large angular scales do not match those predicted by the

read more

Flash memory combines graphene and molybdenite

March 21, 2013

Graphene and molybdenite combine into a flash memory prototype. Yellow balls: molybdenite; gray hexagons: graphite  (credit: EPFL)

EPFL scientists have combined two materials with advantageous electronic properties — graphene and molybdenite — into a flash memory prototype that is promising in terms of superior performance, size, flexibility and energy consumption.

An ideal “energy band”

“For our memory model, we combined the unique electronic properties of molybdenite (MoS2) with graphene’s amazing conductivity,” explains Andras Kis, author of the study and director of… read more

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