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‘The future might be a hoot’: how Iain M. Banks imagines Utopia

January 23, 2013

The-Hydrogen-Sonata

For 25 years, Scottish science fiction writer Iain M. Banks, author of the Culture Series, has been writing about a utopian post-scarcity civilization managed by artificially intelligent drones known as Minds, and preoccupied by artificial intelligence, games, and interactions with other civilizations.

In the latest novel published in October, The Hydrogen Sonata, a civilization known as the Gzilt are making preparations to Sublime — in… read more

The age of enhancement

March 5, 2013

amazing-spiderman

Technology is starting to give us superpowers once reserved for comic-book heroes, Slate reports.

Human enhancement is happening all the time, largely through incremental improvements on existing technologies.

Wearable technology is taking off. Muscle suits are starting to look more plausible. The military is working on “Spider-Man suits” that let the wearer scale vertical walls.

Devices that interact directly… read more

A real-life ‘holodeck’ in 10 years?

January 17, 2013

The holodeck of the USS Enterprise (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

According to software expert Tim Huckaby, we’re on the verge of a science-fiction-like future where doctors manipulate molecules in three-dimensional (3-D) space, augmented music players tune into your thoughts, and retailers deliver coupons in real time based on the focus of your gaze across store shelves, Smart Planet reports.

His predictions for what’s possible within the next 10 years include a functioning “holodeck” (as in Star Trek)… read more

Carbon nanotubes to replace silicon: IBM

October 29, 2012

IBM carbon nanotube: The substrate gets dipped in the carbon nanotube solution and the nanotubes attach via a chemical bond to the coating in the HfO2 trenches (credit: IBM)

IBM scientists have precisely placed and tested more than 10,000 carbon nanotube devices in a single chip, using standard semiconductor manufacturing processes — paving the way for carbon technology to replace silicon in future computing and allowing further miniaturization of computing components. The development promises to lead the way for future microelectronics, with controlled placement of individual nanotubes at a density of about a billion per square centimeter.… read more

Intelligent alien life could be found by 2040, says SETI astronomer

February 19, 2014

Artist's rendition of an Earth-like exoplanet Gliese 436b (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

“By 2040 or so, astronomers will have scanned enough star systems to give themselves a great shot of discovering alien-produced electromagnetic signals,” said Seth Shostak, Senior Astronomer at the SETI Institute, Space.com reports.

Shostak spoke at the NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts (NIAC) symposium on Feb. 6 at Stanford University.

He will also speak at the Contact conference on March 21–23… read more

Turning off the ‘aging genes’

Computer algorithm developed by TAU researchers identifies genes that could be transformed to stop the aging process
January 3, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

Tel Aviv University researchers have developed a computer algorithm that predicts which genes can be “turned off” to create the same anti-aging effect as calorie restriction*. The findings, reported in Nature Communications, could lead to the development of new drugs to treat aging.

“Most algorithms try to find drug targets that kill cells to treat cancer or bacterial infections,” says Keren Yizhak, a doctoral student in Prof.… read more

Cook affirms Apple wearable-computing scenario

May 30, 2013

FaceTime-Anders-Kjellberg

Speaking at the D11 Conference on Tuesday night in the opening tête-à-tête, Apple CEO Tim Cook offered muted praise for Google Glass but dismissed its mainstream appeal while calling wearable computing on your wrist “interesting” and “natural,” Jason Hiner writes on ZDNet.

Cook also predicted that the next generation of wearable computing will do more than just one thing such as activity tracking.

That kind… read more

Worldwide annual solar PV installations will double by 2020, says report

November 10, 2013

Annual solar PV

Annual installations of new solar PV capacity will more than double in capacity by 2020, growing from a total 35.9 gigawatts (GW) in 2013 to 73.4 GW in 2020, according to a recent report from Navigant Research.

Despite waning government support, the threat of international trade wars, and high-profile bankruptcies, the solar photovoltaic (PV) market continues to grow, solar PV technology costs have steadily declined, and pathways… read more

A display that makes interactive 3D seem mind-bogglingly real

The Z Space display could be revolutionary for designers and animators, but might also inspire innovation in computer gaming and augmented reality
December 19, 2012

z-space1

The “Z Space” display, developed by Californian company Infinite Z, tracks a user’s eye and hand movements and adjusts the 3-D image that he or she sees in real-time, MIT Technology Review reports.

The resulting effect is stunning. Unlike the 3-D video seen in a movie theater or on a 3-D TV, you can move your head around an object — to look it from… read more

‘Green Brain’ project to create autonomous flying robot with honeybee brain

October 2, 2012

The honeybee brain: a schematic view of the major neuropils of the central brain area excluding the eyes, showing the olfactory pathway (credit: Randolf Menzel and Martin Giurfa/TRENDS in Cognitive Sciences)

Scientists at the Universities of Sheffield and Sussex are embarking on an ambitious project to produce the first accurate computer models of a honeybee brain in a bid to advance our understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and how animals think.

The team will build models of the systems in the brain that govern a honeybee’s vision and sense of smell. Using this information, the researchers… read more

Domestic drones and their unique dangers

March 31, 2013

AR Drone 2.0

The use of drones by domestic U.S. law enforcement agencies is growing rapidly, both in terms of numbers and types of usage, blogger Glenn Greenwald writes in The Guardian.

A short summary of Greenwald’s comprehensive article:

  • The belief that weaponized drones won’t be used on U.S. soil is patently irrational. Police departments are already speaking openly about how their drones “could be equipped to carry

read more

Drug laws are ‘worst case of scientific censorship in modern times’

June 17, 2013

brain_psilocybin

Outlawing psychoactive drugs amounts to the worst case of scientific censorship in modern times, leading scientists have argued.

UN conventions on drugs in the 1960s and 1970s have not only compounded the harms of drugs but also produced the worst censorship of research for over 300 years. This has set back research in key areas such as consciousness by decades and effectively stopped the investigation of promising… read more

Green tea extract blocks formation of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease

March 8, 2013

green_tea_alzheimer

Researchers at the University of Michigan have found a new potential benefit of a molecule in green tea: preventing the misfolding of specific proteins in the brain.

U-M Life Sciences Institute faculty member Mi Hee Lim and an interdisciplinary team of researchers used green tea extract to control the generation of metal-associated amyloid-β aggregates associated with Alzheimer’s disease in the lab.

The specific molecule… read more

The world as free-fire zone

How drones made it easy for Americans to kill a particular person anywhere on the planet
June 13, 2013

Reaper Drone (Credit: USAF)

“The rise of the drone is not a case of technology run amok. It is the result of human decision: of political calculation and, too often, strategic evasion,” says author Fred Kaplan in MIT Technology Review.

“Judging from its expanded use over the past five years, the drone’s chief danger is that it makes war too easy — so easy that commanders, including the commander-in-chief, can fool themselves… read more

How science can build a better you

November 4, 2012

How far would you go to modify yourself using the latest medical technology?

In a New York Times article Saturday, author and broadcaster David Ewing Duncan offers a partial checklist of cutting-edge medical-technology therapies now under way or in an experimental phase that might lead to future enhancements, including:

Present:

  • supermemory or attention pill
  • cochlear implant to improve hearing
  • brain-boosting neuro-feedback and

read more

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