science + technology news

Russia asteroid impact: ESA update and assessment

February 22, 2013

The estimated orbit around the Sun of the Chelyabinsk object. It illustrates the orbits of Venus, Mars and Earth, together with the Sun and Earth at impact. The illustration is based on data provided by Dr Peter Brown. (Credit: NASA)

The first firm details of the 15 February asteroid impact in Russia, the largest in more than a century, are becoming clear. ESA is carefully assessing the information as crucial input for developing the Agency’s asteroid-hunting effort.

At 03:20 GMT on 15 February, a natural object entered the atmosphere and disintegrated in the skies over Chelyabinsk, Russia.

Extensive video records indicate a northeast to… read more

What will your next body be like?

December 25, 2012

A scene from R.U.R., showing three robots (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

“Many engineers, including me, think that some time around 2050, we will be able to make very high quality links between the brains and machines. … If your mind is so well connected, you could inhabit a new body, without having to vacate your existing one,” suggests futurologist Ian Pearson.

“Using a detachable brain is one option, or not to put a brain in at all, using empty immobile husks that… read more

Mars may get hit by a comet in 2014

March 4, 2013

(Credit: Image credit: Mars: NASA/JPL/MSSS; Comet Halley: Hale Observatory; composite: Phil Plait)

A comet called C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring) is expected to miss Mars around Oct. 19, 2014 by 37,000 km (23,000 miles), says Bad Astronomy Slate blogger Phil Plait.

Assuming it does hit, while the nucleus size is not well known, it may be as small as 15 kilometers (9 miles) or as big as 50 km (30 miles). Even using the small number means Mars would… 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

NASA aims for human rendezvous at Mars in 2033

May 24, 2012

mars-gale-crater-nasa

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

‘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

IBM ships Watson system to RPI researchers to develop new markets

January 31, 2013

rpi_watson

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

NSA hacks Yahoo, Google data-center cables worldwide

October 30, 2013

NSA-Google

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mars One design not feasible, MIT researchers find

October 15, 2014

The non-profit company Mars One plans to establish the first human settlement on Mars by 2025. Pictured is an artist's rendering of a series of habitats. Solar panels (in the foreground), would supply the colony's electricity, while a system to extract water from the soil (in the background) would supply drinking water. (Credit: Bryan Versteeg / Mars One)

MIT researchers have developed a detailed settlement-analysis tool to assess the feasibility of the Mars One plans to establish the first human colony on Mars by 2025,  finding that new technologies will be needed to keep humans alive on Mars.

Mars One —  considered by some to be essentially a Dutch-made reality TV show — claims that the entire mission can be built upon technologies that already… read more

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