science + technology news

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

Could ‘genetically edited’ fruits avoid the GMO backlash?

August 15, 2014

Genetically edited apples that don't brown when sliced could be possible (credit: iStock)

Recent advances in precise editing of genomes now raise the possibility that fruit and other crops might be genetically improved without the need to introduce foreign genes, as in  genetically modified organisms (GMOs), say researchers writing in the Cell Press publication Trends in Biotechnology on August 13.

The notion is that “genetically edited” fruits might be met with greater acceptance than GMOs. This could mean “super bananas” that produce more vitamin… 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

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

Mitochondria trigger cell aging, researchers discover

How to rejuvenate or prevent aging in human and mice cells
February 5, 2016

Components of a typical mitochondrion (credit: Kelvinsong/Creative Commons)

An international team of scientists led by João Passos at Newcastle University has for the first time shown that mitochondria (the “batteries” of the cells) are major triggers for aging, and eliminating them upon the induction of senescence prevents senescence in the aging mouse liver.

As we grow old, cells in our bodies accumulate different types of damage and have increased inflammation, factors that are thought to contribute… 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

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

Scientists speculate on top-secret Mars Rover discovery

November 28, 2012

curiosity-self-portrait-hi-res

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

How AI may affect urban life in 2030

September 2, 2016

(credit: AI100)

Specialized robots that clean and provide security, robot-assisted surgery, natural language processing-augmented instruction, and helping people adapt as old jobs are lost and new ones are created: these are some of the profound challenges explored by a panel of academic and industrial thinkers that has looked ahead to 2030 to forecast how advances in artificial intelligence (AI) might affect life in a typical North American city.

Titled “Artificialread 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

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

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

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

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