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Could we build a 20-kilometer-high space tower?

September 12, 2012

(NASA MSFC, Artist Pat Rawling)

Science-fiction novelist Neal Stephenson imagines a 20-kilometer-high steel tower that reaches into the stratosphere.

From that height, planes could save fuel by docking at the tower rather than landing, and space missions could do the same by launching from it.

Stephenson is teaming up with a structural engineer, Keith Hjelmstad at Arizona State University (ASU), to work out how to actually build the tower, New Scientist reports.… read more

Civilization faces ‘perfect storm of ecological and social problems’

February 22, 2012

(credit: BP)

Celebrated scientists and development thinkers today warn that civilization is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption, and environmentally malign technologies.

In the face of an “absolutely unprecedented emergency,” say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize — the unofficial Nobel for the environment — society has “no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we… read more

Groups concerned over arming of domestic drones

May 25, 2012

blog_armedrone

Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas said his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone, CBS DC reports.

“Drone manufacturers are also considering offering police the option of arming these remote-controlled aircraft with (nonlethal for now) weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas,” the ACLU says on their website.

Catherine Crump, staff… read more

2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal

February 10, 2011

timecover

Time magazine just published a comprehensive cover story on the Singularity and Ray Kurzweil’s “radical vision for humanity’s immortal future.”

“Kurzweil’s interest in humanity’s cyborganic destiny began about 1980 largely as a practical matter. He needed ways to measure and track the pace of technological progress…(Kurzweil) has been publishing his thoughts about the future of human and machine-kind for 20 years, most recently in The Singularity Isread more

Teleporting information achieved by TU Delft

A key step toward a "quantum internet"
June 2, 2014

(Credit: TU Delft)

Teleporting people through space, as in Star Trek, is impossible by the laws of physics, but researchers at TU Delft‘s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience have succeeded in teleporting information.

Using quantum entanglement, they transferred the information contained in a quantum bit in a diamond to a quantum bit in another diamond three meters away, without the information having traveled through the intervening space.

The… read more

Scientists discover how to slow down aging in mice and increase longevity

Blocking a specific protein complex in the hypothalamus and injecting a hormone slow aging and cognitive decline
May 3, 2013

Hypothalamus:  (credit: iStockphoto)

Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found that the hypothalamus of mice controls aging throughout the body.

Their discovery of a specific age-related signaling pathway opens up new strategies for combating diseases of old age and extending lifespan.

Background: the hypothalmus and inflammation

“Scientists have long wondered whether aging occurs independently in the body’s various tissues or if it… read more

The future of education eliminates the classroom, because the world is your class

March 25, 2013

Hypercities (credit: UCLA et at.)

Technology can turn our entire lives into learning experiences via “socialstructed learning,” an aggregation of microlearning experiences drawn from a rich ecology of content and driven not by grades but by social and intrinsic rewards, suggests Marina Gorbis, Executive Director at the Institute for the Future, in Fast Company.

“Today’s obsession with MOOCs is a reminder of the old forecasting paradigm: In the early stages of technology… read more

Texas wind farms increase land surface temperature

May 2, 2012

Wind Farm

A Texas region containing four of the world’s largest wind farms showed an increase in land surface temperature over nine years that researchers have connected to local meteorological effects of the turbines.

The land surface temperature around the west-central Texas wind farms warmed at a rate of .72 degrees Celsius per decade during the study period relative to nearby regions without wind farms, an effect most likely… read more

How the brain ‘takes out the trash’ while we sleep

October 18, 2013

cerebral_spinal_fluid

A new study shows that a recently discovered system that flushes waste from the brain is primarily active during sleep, giving fresh meaning to the old adage that a good night’s sleep clears the mind.

This revelation could transform scientists’ understanding of the biological purpose of sleep and point to new ways to treat neurological disorders.

“This study shows that the brain has different functional states… read more

Morality for robots?

September 5, 2012

machine-question-book

In new book, NIU Northern Illinois University Professor David Gunkel examines ethical questions raised by 21st century computers, robots and artificial intelligence.

On the topic of computers, artificial intelligence and robots,  he says science fiction is fast becoming “science fact.”

Fictional depictions of artificial intelligence have run the gamut from the loyal Robot in “Lost in Space” to the killer computer HAL in “2001:… read more

Neuroscientists find cortical columns in brain not uniform, challenging large-scale simulation models

October 25, 2013

Cell type-specific 3D reconstruction of five neighboring barrel columns in rat vibrissal cortex (credit: Marcel Oberlaender et al.)

Despite a long-held scientific belief that cortex is built up by repeatedly occurring elementary units called cortical columns, a new study by neuroscientists has found that the structure of the brain’s cortical columns can largely deviate within individual animals, and even within a specific cortical area.

The study also found that these structural differences are not arbitrary, but reflect organizational and functional properties of the… read more

Quantum robots will be more creative, faster, smarter, say researchers

October 8, 2014

The theoretical work has focused on using quantum computing to accelerate the machine learning. (Credit: SINC)

Quantum computing should be applied to robots, automatons, and other agents that use AI to make them more creative and to learn and respond faster than conventional robots, researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the University of Innsbruck (Austria) recommend.

In a study in the journal ‘Physical Review X’ modeling the use of quantum physics in future robots (and other agents), they demonstrate that… read more

3D printing lowers environmental impact, says study

October 5, 2013

3d_printed_blocks_large

Making things at home on a 3D printer uses less energy — and therefore releases less carbon dioxide — than producing it in a factory and shipping it to a warehouse.

That’s according to a study led by Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University.

The team conducted life-cycle impact analyses on three products:… read more

A strange computer promises great speed

March 25, 2013

dwave_ones_in_the_lab_large

Academic researchers and scientists at companies like Microsoft, IBM, and Hewlett-Packard have been working to develop quantum computers.

Now, Lockheed Martin — which bought an early version of such a computer from the Canadian company D-Wave Systems two years ago — is confident enough in the technology to… read more

Multi-material 3D printer creates realistic neurosurgical models for training

December 12, 2013

A perforator creates a burr hole in the model of a skull. The model, produced using a multimaterial 3D printer, is composed of a variety of materials that simulate the various consistencies and densities of human tissues encountered during neurosurgery. (Credit: American Association of Neurosurgeons)

Researchers* from Malaysia and the UK have used a new multi-material 3D printer to create realistic, low-cost model of the skull for use by students in practicing neurosurgical techniques.

The model uses a variety of materials that simulate the various consistencies and densities of human tissues encountered during neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery is a difficult discipline to master. Trainees may spend as many as 10 years after graduation from medical… read more

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