science + technology news

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

Mass extinctions linked to comet and asteroid showers

October 22, 2015

Mass extinctions occurring over the past 260 million years were likely caused by comet and asteroid showers, a new study concludes. An artist's illustration of a major asteroid impact on Earth. (credit: NASA/Don Davis)

Mass extinctions occurring over the past 260 million years were likely caused by comet and asteroid showers, scientists conclude in a new study published in an open-access paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

For more than 30 years, scientists have argued about a controversial hypothesis relating to periodic mass extinctions and impact craters — caused by comet and asteroid showers — on Earth.

In… 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

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

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

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

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

A better brain implant: listening to single neurons

November 12, 2012

SEM image of a fully assembled, functional microthread electrode (credit: Takashi Kozai)

A thin, flexible electrode developed at the University of Michigan is 10 times smaller than the nearest competition and could make long-term measurements of neural activity practical.

This kind of technology could also be used eventually to send brain-computer-interface (BCI) signals to prosthetic limbs, overcoming inflammation caused by larger electrodes, resulting in damage to both the brain and the electrodes.

Existing electrodes are stiff and enormous… read more

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