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The cosmological supercomputer

How the Bolshoi simulation evolves the universe all over again
October 3, 2012

cosmic_web

Most of the ordinary matter in the universe — the stuff that makes up all the atoms, stars, and galaxies astronomers can see — is invisible, either sprinkled throughout intergalactic space in tenuous forms that emit and absorb little light or else swaddled inside galaxies in murky clouds of dust and gas, Joel R. Primack writes in IEEE Spectrum.

When astronomers look out into the night… 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

A 3D-printed Moon base baked from lunar dust

March 20, 2013

sinterhab-moon-base-4

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

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

brainstorm

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

Amazingly realistic digital screen characters are finally here

March 21, 2013

Zoe

Meet Zoe: a digital talking head. She can express a range of human emotions on demand with “unprecedented realism” and could herald a new era of human-computer interaction, according to researchers at Toshiba’s Cambridge Research Lab and the University of Cambridge’s Department of Engineering, who created her.

Zoe, or her offspring, could be used as a visible version of Siri, as… read more

Watson to help find new sources of oil

World’s first cognitive-technologies collaboration for oil industry applications
October 30, 2014

IBM's Cognitive Environments Lab researchers are developing software agents called "cogs" that will help energy company Repsol make better decisions on acquiring new oil fields and optimizing its strategy for current oil production (credit: Jon Simon/Feature Photo Service for IBM)

Scientists at IBM and Repsol SA, Spain largest energy company, announced today (Oct. 30) the world’s first research collaboration using cognitive technologies like IBM’s Watson to jointly develop and apply new tools to make it cheaper and easier to find new oil fields.

An engineer will typically have to manually read through an enormous set of journal papers and baseline reports with models of reservoir, well, facilities, production, export,… read more

Rice unveils super-efficient solar-energy technology

November 21, 2012

The solar steam device developed at Rice University has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent, far surpassing that of photovoltaic solar panels. It may first be used in sanitation and water-purification applications in the developing world. (Credit: Jeff Fitlow/Rice University)

Rice University scientists have unveiled a revolutionary new technology that uses silicon dioxide/gold nanoshells and N115 carbon nanoparticles to convert solar energy directly into steam. The new “solar steam” method from Rice’s Laboratory for Nanophotonics (LANP) is so effective it can even produce steam from icy cold water.

The technology has an overall energy efficiency of 24 percent. Photovoltaic solar panels, by comparison, typically have… read more

The music of the silks

Researchers synthesize a new kind of silk fiber --- and find that music can help fine-tune the material’s properties
November 30, 2012

This diagram of the molecular structure of one of the artificially produced versions of spider silk depicts one that turned out to form strong, well-linked fibers. A different structure, made using a variation of the same methods, was not able to form into the long fibers needed to make it useful. Musical compositions based on the two structures helped to show how they differed. (Credit: Markus Buehler/MIT)

Research by MIT’s Markus Buehler — together with David Kaplan of Tufts University and Joyce Wong of Boston University — has synthesized new variants on silk’s natural structure, and found a method for making further improvements in the synthetic material.

The work stems from a collaboration of civil and environmental engineers, mathematicians, biomedical engineers and musical composers. The results are reported in a paper published… read more

Is faster-than-light travel possible?

July 23, 2013

Alcubierre warp drive

Engineers at NASA Johnson Space Center are designing instruments to find out, by slightly warping the trajectory of a photon and measuring the distance it travels, The New York Times reports.

Inspiration for the research came from Mexican physicist Miguel Alcubierre, who proposed in 1994 a method of stretching space in a wave which would in theory cause the fabric of space ahead of a spacecraft to… read more

Graphene micro-supercapacitors to replace batteries for microelectonics devices

Will power biomedical implants, active RFID tags, embedded micro-sensors, and flexible electronics
February 27, 2013

Micro-supercapacitor

UCLA researchers have developed a groundbreaking technique that uses a DVD burner to fabricate miniature graphene-based supercapacitors — devices that can charge and discharge a hundred to a thousand times faster than standard batteries.

These micro-supercapacitors, made from a one-atom–thick layer of carbon, can be easily manufactured and readily integrated into small devices, such as next-generation pacemakers.

The new cost-effective fabrication method holds promise for the… read more

Billion-euro brain simulation and graphene projects win European funds

January 24, 2013

Neocortical column in Henry Markram's Blue Brain project (Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

The European Commission has selected the two research proposals it will fund to the tune of half-a-billion euros ($650 million U.S.) each, after a two-year, high-profile contest, Nature News reports.

The Human Brain Project, led by neuroscientist Henry Markram at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, plans to simulate the human brain in a supercomputer. (See “Brain inread more

iSpy vs. gSpy

January 7, 2013

738px-Three_Surveillance_cameras

We are all being watched, whether we like it or not.

It is a battle between you and the government — like Mad Magazine’s Spy vs. Spy comic, but it’s gSpy vs. iSpy, Andy Kessler, author of Eat People, writes in The Wall Street Journal.

There are thousands of toll booths at bridges and turnpikes across America recording your license plate. There are 4,214 red-light cameras… read more

Will the elderly ever accept care from robots?

The new movie Robot & Frank shows a machine taking care of an old man. The challenge here isn’t the technology, but the people.
August 18, 2012

ROBOT&FRANK

Set in the near future, Frank, a retired cat burglar, has two grown kids who are concerned he can no longer live alone. They are tempted to place him in a nursing home until Frank’s son chooses a different option: against the old man’s wishes, he buys Frank a walking, talking humanoid robot programmed to improve his physical and mental health. 

What follows is an often hilarious and heartwarmingread more

Can an algorithm write a better news story than a human reporter?

April 8, 2013

narrative-science

Every 30 seconds or so, an algorithm developed by Narrative Science produces a computer-written news story, Wired reports.

The articles run on the websites of respected publishers like Forbes, as well as other Internet media powers (many of which are keeping their identities private).

Niche news services hire Narrative Science to write updates for their subscribers, be they sports fans, small-cap investors, or fast-food… read more

A robot as cheap, easy-to-use, and safe as an iPhone

August 26, 2012

rethink_robotics

Rethink Robotics’ goal is that its [forthcoming] cheap, easy-to-use, safe robot will be to industrial robots what the personal computer was to the mainframe computer, or the iPhone was to the traditional phone, says The New York Times writer Thomas L. Friedman.

“That is, it will bring robots to the small business and even home and enable people to write apps for them the way they do with PCs… read more

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