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Why wind — and soon solar — are already cheaper than fossil fuels

August 24, 2015

Cost of energy from renewables expected to fall drastically over the next years (credit: Citigroup)

Citigroup has published an analysis of the costs of various energy sources called “Energy Darwinism II.” It concludes that if all the costs of generation are included (known as the levelized cost of energy), renewables turn out to be cheaper than fossil fuels and a “benefit rather than a cost to society,” RenewEconomy reports.

“Capital costs are often cited by the promoters of fossil fuels as… 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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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