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Exploring long-range communications in the brain

March 23, 2016

Red and green dots reveal a region in the brain that that is very dense with synapses. A special fluorescent protein allows Dr. Ofer Yizhar and his group to record the activity of the synapses. (credit: Weizmann Institute of Science)

Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have devised a new way to track long-distance communications between nerve cells in different areas of the brain. They used optogenetic techniques (using genetic engineering of neurons and laser light in thin optical fibers to temporarily silence long-range axons, effectively leading to a sustained “disconnect” between two distant brain nodes.

By observing what happens when crucial connections are disabled, the researchers could… read more

DARPA’s ‘Targeted Neuroplasticity Training’ program aims to accelerate learning ‘beyond normal levels’

The transhumanism-inspired goal: train superspy agents to rapidly master foreign languages and cryptography
March 23, 2016


DARPA has announced a new program called Targeted Neuroplasticity Training (TNT) aimed at exploring how to use peripheral nerve stimulation and other methods to enhance learning.

DARPA already has research programs underway to use targeted stimulation of the peripheral nervous system as a substitute for drugs to treat diseases and accelerate healing*, to control advanced prosthetic limbs**, and to restore tactile sensation.

But now… read more

Printing nanomaterials with plasma on flexible surfaces and 3D objects

March 22, 2016

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Researchers at NASA Ames and Stanford Linear Accelerator Center have developed a new method that uses plasma to print nanomaterials onto a 3-D object or flexible surface, such as paper or cloth.

The technique could make it easier and cheaper to build devices like wearable chemical and biological sensors, integrated circuits, and flexible memory devices and batteries.

Some nanomaterials can be printed currently using aerosol printing techniques, but… read more

A morphing metal for soft robots and other machines

Imagine an aircraft that could alter its wing shape in midflight and, like a pelican, dive into the water before morphing into a submarine.
March 22, 2016

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Cornell University engineering professor Rob Shepherd and his group have developed a hybrid material combining a stiff metal called Field’s metal and a soft, porous silicone foam. Think T-1000 Terminator.

The material combines the best properties of both — stiffness when it’s called for, and elasticity when a change of shape is required. The material also has the ability to self-heal following damage.

“Sometimes you want a robot, or… read more

A wearable graphene-based biomedical device to monitor and treat diabetes

March 22, 2016


A  wearable graphene-based patch that allows for accurate non-invasive blood-sugar diabetes monitoring and painless drug delivery has been developed by researchers at The Institute for Basic Science (IBS) Center for Nanoparticle Research in South Korea.

The device uses a hybrid of gold-doped graphene and a serpentine-shape gold mesh to measure pH (blood acidity level) and temperature by measuring the amount of glucose in sweat. If abnormally high levels… read more

How to detect radioactive material remotely

March 21, 2016

detecting radioactive materials-ft

University of Maryland researchers have proposed a new technique to remotely detect the radioactive materials* in dirty bombs or other sources from up to a few hundred meters away based on ion density. The technique might be used to screen vehicles, suspicious packages, or cargo.

The researchers calculate that a low-power laser aimed near the radioactive material could free electrons from the oxygen ions. A second, high-power… read more

Neurons involved in working memory fire in bursts, not continuously

How we are able to keep several things simultaneously in working memory
March 21, 2016

Pictured is an artist’s interpretation of neurons firing in sporadic, coordinated bursts. “By having these different bursts coming at different moments in time, you can keep different items in memory separate from one another,” Earl Miller says. (credit: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT)

Think of a sentence you just read. Like that one. You’re now using your working memory, a critical brain system that’s roughly analogous to RAM memory in a computer.

Neuroscientists have believed that as information is held in working memory, brain cells associated with that information must be firing continuously. Not so — they fire in sporadic, coordinated bursts, says Earl Miller, the Picower Professor in MIT’s… read more

We need to forget things to make space to learn new things, scientists discover

Mice study, if confirmed in people, might help forget traumatic experiences
March 21, 2016

The three routes into the hippocampus seem to be linked to different aspects of learning: forming memories (green), recalling them (yellow) and forgetting (red). (credit: John Wood)

While you’re reading this (and learning about this new study), your brain is actively trying to forget something.

We apologize, but that’s what scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University Pablo Olavide in Sevilla, Spain, found in a new study published Friday (March 18) in an open-access paper in Nature Communications.

“This is the first time that a pathway in the brain has… read more

TED releases Meta 2 augmented-reality presentation video

March 18, 2016

Gribetz @ TED

TED just released the full video of Meta CEO Meron Gribetz’s preview of Meta’s next-generation augmented reality (AR) technology at the TED 2016 conference on Feb. 17. It can be found online at and

The presentation, which Forbes said “dazzles TED crowd” and received a standing ovation from TED attendees, dramatically showcases the capabilities of the Meta 2 Development Kit.… read more

When slower is faster: how to get rid of traffic lights

Communicating vehicles could zip through intersections more efficiently, but would they be hackable?
March 18, 2016

Intersection congestion (credit: Google Earth)

Traffic-light-free transportation design, if it ever arrives, could allow twice as much traffic to use the roads, according to a newly published open-access study in PLoS One co-authored by MIT researchers.

The idea is based on future vehicles equipped with the kind of sensors used in autonomous vehicles and that communicate wirelessly with each other, rather than grinding to a halt at traffic lights.

The researchers created a… read more

You’ll interact with smartphones and smartwatches by writing/gesturing on any surface, using sonar signals

March 17, 2016

FingerIO ft

A new sonar technology called FingerIO will make it easier to interact with screens on smartwatches and smartphones by simply writing or gesturing on any nearby surface. It’s is an active sonar system using the device’s own microphones and speakers to track fine-grained finger movements (to within 8mm).

Because sound waves travel through fabric and do not require line of sight, users can even interact with these… read more

Experiments show magnetic chips could dramatically increase computing’s energy efficiency

Beyond Moore's law: the challenge in computing today is reducing chips' energy consumption, not increasing packing density
March 17, 2016

Magnetic microscope image of three nanomagnetic computer bits. Each bit is a tiny bar magnet only 90 nanometers long. The microscope shows a bright spot at the "North" end and a dark spot at the "South" end of the magnet. The "H" arrow shows the direction of magnetic field applied to switch the direction of the magnets. (credit: Image by Jeongmin Hong and Jeffrey Bokor)

UC Berkeley engineers have shown for the first time that magnetic chips can actually operate at the lowest fundamental energy dissipation theoretically possible under the laws of thermodynamics. That means dramatic reductions in power consumption are possible — down to as little as one-millionth the amount of energy per operation used by transistors in modern computers.

The findings were published Mar. 11 an open-access paper in… read more

Major steps toward a bioengineered heart for transplantation

Using a patient’s own cells may overcome problems associated with receiving a heart donated by another person
March 17, 2016

A partially recellularized human whole-heart cardiac scaffold, reseeded with human cardiomyocytes derived from induced pluripotent stem cells, being cultured in a bioreactor that delivers a nutrient solution and replicates some of the environmental conditions around a living heart. (credit: Bernhard Jank, MD, Ott Lab, Center for Regenerative Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital)

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have taken early steps towards producing a bioengineered heart for transplantation that would use cells from the patient receiving the heart.

Using a patient’s own cells would help to overcome some of the problems associated with receiving a heart donated by another person, including immune rejection of the donated heart, as well as the long-term side effects of life-long treatment with the immunosuppressive… read more

A roadmap for the next generation of additive manufacturing materials and processes

Materials currently used in 3D printing are costly, not readily available, and limited
March 16, 2016

3D printing roadmap ft

Penn State University researchers have released a roadmap for developing future additive manufacturing (3D printing) materials and processes.

It’s much needed. Most of the feedstock materials currently used in 3D printing are costly, not readily available, and limited, according to the researchers. The first additive manufacturing (AM) processes were actually developed 30 years ago. All of the metal alloys currently used, for example, were developed to be… read more

Electron microscope reveals bacteria motor parts in incredible unprecedented detail

May make it possible to design specific drugs to attack targeted bacterial species
March 16, 2016

three bacterial motors-ft

A new study of the exotic “motors” that bacteria use to swim reveals details of how they “swim” that may make it possible to design specific drugs that sabotage the flagella (tails) in targeted bacterial species.

Using a newly installed high-powered electron microscope, researchers at Imperial College London, led by Morgan Beeby, PhD from the Department of Life Sciences, has been able visualize these motors… read more

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