science + technology news

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

Electrical stimulation of brain pleasure center reduces chronic pain

In testing with rats, electrode implant also triggers pleasure-associated dopamine
April 6, 2016

Image is a representative slice showing the electrode tip location (green arrow) (credit: Ai‑Ling Li et al./ Experimental Brain Research)

Are you in pain, but your doc won’t increase your hydrocodone dosage (or you don’t want to overdose)?

University of Texas at Arlington researchers may have a (future) drug-free fix: electrical stimulation of a deep middle-brain structure that blocks pain signals at the spinal cord level while triggering release of pleasure-associated dopamine to reduce the associated emotional distress.

“This is the first study to use a… 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

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

A nanocopter camera that follows you around, streaming video to your smartphone

February 14, 2013

MeCam

Always Innovating is developing a $49. tiny flying video camera called the MeCam, due out in 2014.

The camera streams live video to your smartphone, allowing you to stream or upload videos. A nanocopter with 4 spinning rotors houses the camera, with an ARM Cortex-A9 processor, 1GB of RAM, WiFI, and Bluetooth.

The MeCam launches from the palm of a hand and hovers instantly. It streams… read more

New cosmic background radiation map challenges some foundations of cosmology

March 22, 2013

Planck_CMB_large

The most detailed map ever created of the cosmic microwave background — the relic radiation from the Big Bang — acquired by ESA’s Planck space telescope, has been released, revealing features that challenge the foundations of our current understanding of the Universe and may require new physics.

  • The fluctuations in the CMB temperatures at large angular scales do not match those predicted by the

read more

IBM launches functioning brain-inspired chip

Operates at 46 billion “synaptic operations” per second per watt; 100 trillion "synapses" planned, matching the approximate number in the human brain
August 7, 2014

IBM neurosynaptic chip (credit: IBM)

IBM announced today, August 7, the first computer chip to achieve one million programmable “neurons,” 256 million programmable “synapses,” and 46 billion “synaptic operations” per second per watt — simulating the function of neurons and synapses in the brain.*

Neurosynaptic. At 5.4 billion transistors, this low-power, production-scale “neurosynaptic” (brain-inspired) chip (the size of a postage stamp), is one of the largest CMOS chips ever built, IBM says.… read more

Travelers to Mars risk leukemia cancer, weakened immune function from radiation, NASA-funded study finds

March 27, 2017

The spleen from a mouse exposed to a mission-relevant dose (20 cGy, 1 GeV/n) of iron ions (bottom) was ~ 30 times the normal volume compared with the spleen (top) from a control mouse. (credit: C Rodman et al./Leukemia)

Radiation encountered in deep space travel may increase the risk of leukemia cancer in humans traveling to Mars, NASA-funded researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and colleagues have found, using mice transplanted with human stem cells.

“Our results are troubling because they show radiation exposure could potentially increase the risk of leukemia,” said Christopher Porada, Ph.D., associate professor of regenerative medicine and… read more

Future Day: a new global holiday March 1

February 29, 2012

future_day

Why are nearly all our holidays focused on celebrating the past, or the cyclical processes of nature? Why not celebrate the amazing future we are collectively creating?

That’s the concept behind a new global holiday, Future Day (March 1), conceived by AI researcher Dr. Ben Goertzel.

Future Day 2012 gatherings are scheduled in more than a dozen cities, as well as in… read more

Carnegie Mellon AI beats top poker pros — a first

Another major milestone in artificial intelligence
January 31, 2017

"Brains vs Artificial Intelligence" competition at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh (credit: Carnegie Mellon University)

Libratus, an AI developed by Carnegie Mellon University, has defeated four of the world’s best professional poker players in a marathon 120,000 hands of Heads-up, No-Limit Texas Hold’em poker played over 20 days, CMU announced today (Jan. 31) — joining Deep Blue (for chess), Watson, and Alpha Go as major milestones in AI.

Libratus led the pros by a collective $1,766,250 in chips.* The tournament was held… read more

Internet activists on red alert ahead of United Nations conference

How the ITU could put the Internet behind closed doors
November 16, 2012

R.I.P._Internet

Internet activists are warning that next month’s meeting of the International Telecommunications Union, a United Nations body charged with overseeing global communications, may have significant and potentially disastrous consequences for everyday Internet users, Mashable reports.

Called the World Conference on International Telecommunications, the meeting is intended to update some of the aging international law that governs the flow of information online. The meeting is mostly closed to… read more

Drugs

September 3, 2012

Self-portrait on mushrooms (credit: Bryan Lewis Saunders)

“After experiencing drastic changes in my environment, I looked for other experiences that might profoundly affect my perception of the self. So I devised another experiment where everyday I took a different drug and drew myself under the influence.

“Within weeks I became lethargic and suffered mild brain damage. I am still conducting this experiment but over greater lapses of time.  I only take drugs that are given… read more

Future of Life Institute awards $7M to explore artificial intelligence risks

Terminator Genisys film will distract from the real issues posed by future AI, says Tegmark
July 1, 2015

Elon Musk (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The Future of Life Institute (FLI) announced today (July 1) the selection of 37 research teams around the world to which it plans to award about $7 million from Elon Musk and the Open Philanthropy Project for a global research program aimed at keeping AI beneficial to humanity.

The grants were funded by part of Musk’s $10 million donation to the group in January and $1.2 million from the… read more

Are you ready for the Internet of Cops?

March 3, 2014

FirstNet-challenges

FirstNet — a state-of-the-art communications network for paramedics, firemen and law enforcement at the federal, state and local level — will give cops on the streets unprecedented technological powers, and possibly hand over even more intimate data about our lives to the higher ends of the government and its intelligence agencies, Motherboard reports.

According to a series of presentation slides from December last year, FirstNet… read more

Biotech is thrusting us into new political territory

August 29, 2012

Human_fetus_10_weeks_with_amniotic_sac

Stem cells, embryo research and synthetic biology are just a few of the issues that will force strange new political alliances, University of Pennsylvania bioethicist Jonathan D. Moreno writes in New Scientist.

The new biology, or biotechnology — including stem cells, embryo research, synthetic biology and reproductive technology — has unprecedented power to change basic life processes.

One recent example is the controversy over the “three-parent… read more

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