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Scientists speculate on top-secret Mars Rover discovery

November 28, 2012


NASA’s Curiosity rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument has likely relayed some provocative findings, reports.

John Grotzinger, lead mission investigator for the Curiosity rover, set the rumors in motion during an interview with NPR last week, saying, “We’re getting data from SAM … this data is gonna be one for the history books. It’s looking really good.”

Most scientists contacted… 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

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

Continued destruction of Earth’s plant life places humankind in jeopardy, say researchers

July 15, 2015

Earth-space battery. The planet is a positive charge of stored chemical energy (cathode) in the form of fossil and nuclear fuels and biomass. As this energy is dissipated by humans, it eventually radiates as heat toward the chemical equilibrium of deep space (anode). The battery is rapidly discharging without replenishment. (credit: John R. Schramski et al./PNAS)

Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth’s declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years,” said the study’s lead author,… 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:


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

read more

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

March 8, 2013


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

A ’3D printer’ for customized small molecules such as drugs

March 12, 2015

3D Printer for Small Molecules1

Howard Hughes Medical Institute scientists have developed a simpler way to synthesize small molecules, eliminating a major bottleneck in creating new medicines.

As the scientists note in the March 13, 2015, issue of the journal Science, “small-molecule syntheses typically employ strategies and purification methods that are highly customized for each target, thus requiring automation solutions to be developed [inefficiently] on an ad hoc basis.”

According to Martin Burke, an… 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

Robot learns to use tools by ‘watching’ YouTube videos

January 2, 2015

"Hmmm, I can do that." Robot watches videos to detect objects and how to grasp them (credit: Yezhou Yang et al.)

Imagine a self-learning robot that can enrich its knowledge about fine-grained manipulation actions (such as preparing food) simply by “watching” demo videos. That’s the idea behind a new robot-training system based on recent developments of “deep neural networks” in computer vision, developed by researchers at the University of Maryland and NICTA in Australia.

The objective of the system is to improve performance, improving on previous automated robot-training systems such… read more

Google Glass patent applications: bone conduction, laser-projected keyboard, more

January 29, 2013

laser-projected keyboard.-featured

Recent patent applications related to Google Glass are providing insight into the hardware behind the Glasses.

Bone conduction for covert audio. This would allow more privacy so that no one can overhear a conversation; a vibration transducer allows the technology to work without a direct connection. U.S. patent application


A laser projector can be used to project an interface onread more

Tools of modern gunmaking: plastic and a 3D printer

February 1, 2013

30 round magazine opened in FreeCAD (credit: Distributed Defense)

Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York wants to extend an existing law, set to expire this year, that makes weapons that are undetectable by security scanners — like a printed all-plastic gun — illegal, The New York Times reports.

But there are also major technical obstacles to creating an entire gun on a 3-D printer, not the least of which is that a plastic gun would… read more

FDA orders 23andMe to halt sales of its its Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service

November 26, 2013

(Credit: 23 And Me

The FDA has told 23andMe, Inc., the Google-backed DNA analysis company cofounded by Anne Wojcicki, to halt sales of its Saliva Collection Kit and Personal Genome Service (PGS).

In a letter, the FDA said the company was acting “without marketing clearance or approval in violation of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act (the FD&C Act)….”

“Most of the intended uses for PGS listed on your… read more

A 3D-printed Moon base baked from lunar dust

March 20, 2013


Space architects have unveiled a concept for a 3D-printed Moon base called SinterHab near the lunar south pole. Modules would be constructed from lunar dust by microwave sintering and contour crafting, built by a large NASA spider robot.

Unlike an earlier, more bulky concept using a mobile printing array of nozzles on a 6 meter frame to spray a binding solution (glue) onto… read more

Blue Brain project accurately predicts connections between neurons

September 18, 2012

Patterning of putative synapses between synaptically coupled neurons (credit: EPFL)

In a landmark paper, published this week in PNAS (forthcoming), the EPFL’s Blue Brain Project (BBP) has identified key principles that determine synapse-scale connectivity by virtually reconstructing (in supercomputer) a cortical microcircuit and comparing it to a mammalian sample.

These principles now make it possible to predict the locations of synapses in the neocortex, the researchers say.

“This is a major breakthrough,… read more

Non-invasive brain-to-brain interface: links between two brains

Direct communication between the brains of human and rat .... or between humans
April 8, 2013


We reported last month how Duke University researchers remotely linked the brains of two rats. Now researchers from the U.S and South Korea have have taken it a step further: a non-invasive functional link between the brains of different species (human and rat) — a brain-to-brain interface (BBI).

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School set up a system intended to allow a human to… read more

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