science + technology news

Scientists predict Earth-like planets around most stars

February 5, 2015

(Credit: Australian National University)

Planetary scientists have calculated that there are hundreds of billions of Earth-like planets in our galaxy which might support life.

The new research, led by PhD student Tim Bovaird and Associate Professor Charley Lineweaver from The Australian National University (ANU), made the finding by applying a 200 year old idea called the Titius-Bode relation — used to predict the existence of… 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

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

Apple’s first AI paper focuses on creating ‘superrealistic’ image recognition

December 28, 2016

Simulated+Unsupervised learning ft

Apple’s first paper on artificial intelligence, published Dec. 22 on arXiv (open access), describes a method for improving the ability of a deep neural network to recognize images.

To train neural networks to recognize images, AI researchers have typically labeled (identified or described) each image in a dataset. For example, last year, Georgia Institute of Technology researchers developed a deep-learning method to recognize images taken at regular… 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

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

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

Will cosmic rays threaten Mars One, other deep-space astronaut projects?

October 23, 2014

Artist's rendition of the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter at the moon. The CRaTER telescope is seen pointing out at the bottom right center of the LRO spacecraft. (Credit: Chris Meaney/NASA)

Crewed missions to Mars such as Mars One may face dangerous levels of cosmic rays (energetic particles), according to a new paper in the journal Space Weather by University of New Hampshire (UNH) scientists.

This is due to a recent highly abnormal and extended lack of solar activity, resulting in extremely low densities and magnetic field strengths in the solar wind.

This results in a serious reduction in the… 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

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

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

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

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