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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

3D printed meat development funded

August 17, 2012


Billionaire investor Peter Thiel’s philanthropic foundation has announced a six-figure grant for bioprinted meat, part of an ambitious plan to bring to the world’s dinner tables a set of technologies originally developed for creating medical-grade tissues, CNET reports.

The recipient of the Thiel Foundation’s grant, a Columbia, Mo.-based startup named Modern Meadow, is pitching bioprinted meat as a more environmentally-friendly way to satisfy… read more

The cosmological supercomputer

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


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

A bucket-full of this material can absorb all the oxygen in a room

The stored oxygen can be easily released again whenever and wherever needed
October 1, 2014

This exotic crystalline material changes color when absorbing or releasing oxygen. Crystals are black when saturated with oxygen and pink when the oxygen has been released. (Credit: University of Southern Denmark)

A new crystalline material absorbs 160 times more oxygen than in the air around you — only a spoonful bucket-full (10 liters) of it is enough to suck up all the oxygen in a room, according to its developer, Professor Christine McKenzie in the Department of Physics, Chemistry and Pharmacy at the University of Southern Denmark.

A few grains of this material might absorb enough oxygen from the… read more

Replacing a defective gene with a correct sequence to treat genetic disorders

April 10, 2014


Using a new gene-editing system based on bacterial proteins, MIT researchers have cured mice of a rare liver disorder caused by a single genetic mutation.

The findings, described in the March 30 issue of Nature Biotechnology, offer the first evidence that this gene-editing technique, known as CRISPR, can reverse disease symptoms in living animals. CRISPR, which offers an easy way to snip out mutated DNA and replace it with… read more

Criminals and terrorists can fly drones too

February 6, 2013


Drones are no longer the sole domain of the military, and just as with many new technologies, they can easily fall into the wrong hands,  global security advisor, writer and consultant  reports in Time.

Criminal organizations are early adopters of technology, and some have already used UAVs and other forms of robotics to violate the law… 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


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

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

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

August 26, 2012


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

Millennium Project releases ’2015–16 State of the Future’ report

August 3, 2015

2015-16 State of the Future

The Millennium Project released today its annual “2015-16 State of the Future” report, listing global trends on 28 indicators of progress and regress, new insights into 15 Global Challenges, and impacts of artificial intelligence, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and other advanced technologies on employment over the next 35 years.

“Another 2.3 billion people are expected to be added to the planet in… read more

‘Information sabotage’ on Wikipedia claimed

Politically controversial science topics like acid rain, evolution, and climate change are vulnerable to "edit wars" by trolls
August 17, 2015

Research has moved online, with more than 80 percent of U.S. students using Wikipedia for research papers, but how reliable is controversial science information? (credit: Pixabay)


Wikipedia entries on politically controversial scientific topics can be unreliable due to “information sabotage,” according to an open-access paper published today in the journal PLOS One.

The authors (Gene E. Likens* and Adam M. Wilson*) analyzed Wikipedia edit histories for three politically controversial scientific topics (acid rain, evolution, and global warming), and four non-controversial scientific topics (the standard… 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

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