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Could robots become ‘aware’ of their own limitations?

April 3, 2013

(credit: Allegra Boverman and Christine Daniloff/MIT)

MIT researchers have developed software for robots that enables them to be more “aware” of their own limitations, such as knowing the whereabouts of an object, or its own location within a room.

Most successful robots today tend to be used either in fixed, carefully controlled environments, such as manufacturing plants, or for performing fairly simple tasks such as vacuuming a room,

But carrying out complicated sequences… read more

Why some nations become wealthy and powerful, while others remain stuck in poverty

March 26, 2012

forumrome

Why do some nations, such as the United States, become wealthy and powerful, while others remain stuck in poverty? And why do some of those powers, from ancient Rome to the modern Soviet Union, expand and then collapse?

Politics makes the difference, say economists Daron Acemoglu of MIT and James Robinson of Harvard University in their new book, Why Nations Fail. Countries that have what they call “inclusive”… read more

World’s biggest geoengineering experiment ‘violates’ UN rules

October 17, 2012

Geoengineering with bloom : high concentrations of chlorophyll in the Eastern Gulf of Alaska

Controversial U.S. businessman’s iron fertilization off west coast of Canada contravenes two UN conventions.

Russ George, a controversial California businessman, dumped about 100 tons of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean as part of a geoengineering scheme off the west coast of Canada in July, a Guardian investigation reveals.

Lawyers, environmentalists and civil… read more

‘Social voting’ really does rock the vote

September 14, 2012

The experiment and direct effects. Examples of the informational message and social message Facebook treatments (a) and their direct effect on voting behaviour (b). Vertical lines indicate s.e.m. (they are too small to be seen for the first two bars). (Credit: /Nature)

Brace yourself for a tidal wave of Facebook campaigning before November’s U.S. presidential election. A study of 61 million Facebook users finds that using online social networks to urge people to vote has a much stronger effect on their voting behavior than spamming them with information via television ads or phone calls, Science Now reports.

The study follows a Science paper that tracked howread more

Paul Allen: the Singularity isn’t near

October 13, 2011

The Microsoft cofounder and a colleague say the Singularity is a long way off.

Their main issue: the “complexity brake. As we go deeper and deeper in our understanding of natural systems, we typically find that we require more and more specialized knowledge to characterize them, and we are forced to continuously expand our scientific theories in more and more complex ways…. Without having a scientifically deep understanding of… read more

Taking 3D printing into the metal age

October 16, 2013

mars_probe_3d_printed

The European Space Agency (ESA)and the EU, together with industrial and educational partners, are developing the first large-scale production methods to 3D-print complex 3D-printed parts made of metal that can withstand temperatures at 1000°C — fit for space and the most demanding applications on Earth.

3D printers are expected to revolutionize the way we live but until recently they could work with only plastic, which… read more

Waterloo researchers create ‘world’s largest functioning model of the brain’

November 30, 2012

Serial working memory task (from movie)

A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo have built what the claim is the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain.

The purpose is to help scientists understand how the complex activity of the brain gives rise to the complex behavior exhibited by animals, including humans.

The model is called Spaun (Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network). It consists of 2.5… read more

Physicists solve uncertainty about uncertainty principle

September 10, 2012

uncertainty-12_09_07

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is one of the cornerstones of quantum mechanics: it’s impossible to measure anything without disturbing it.

For instance, any attempt to measure a particle’s position must change its momentum.

But never mind all that. It’s wrong, University of Toronto physicists say they have just proven.

(This has important implications for quantum information and especially quantum cryptography, where it is fundamental to the security of certain protocols.)… read more

Planets could orbit singularities inside black holes

November 10, 2011

Black hole orbit

Certain black holes can have a complex internal structure that could allow photons, particles, and perhaps even planets to orbit the central singularity without ever getting sucked all the way in, Technology Review Physics arXiv Blog reports.

“Advanced civilizations may live safely inside the supermassive black holes in the galactic nuclei without being visible from the outside,” says Vyacheslav Dokuchaev, Institute for Nuclear Research of the Russian… read more

Five potential habitable exoplanets now

Exoplanet Gliese 581g is the best candidate so far of a potential habitable exoplanet
July 25, 2012

Gliese 581g

New data suggests the exoplanet Gliese 581g is the best candidate so far of a potential habitable exoplanet. The nearby star Gliese 581 — located about 20 light years away from Earth in the constellation Libra — has four planets; the outermost planet, Gliese 581d, was already suspected habitable.

This will be the first evidence for any two potential habitable exoplanets that are orbiting the same star.

Based on… read more

US needs new deep-space Agency, Apollo astronaut says

December 11, 2012

harrison-schmitt-apollo17-astronaut-moonwalk

The U.S. should create a new agency dedicated to manned exploration of the moon, Mars and other destinations in deep space, says former Apollo astronaut Harrison Schmitt, Space.com reports.

Schmitt suggests the new agency be called the National Space Exploration Administration.

The new deep-space agency should “stay young, and develop a management structure that is not so hierarchical — that is actually a… read more

Is this Elon Musk’s secret design for a high-speed train?

July 16, 2013

Hyperloop2

Elon Musk has been hinting at an idea he calls the Hyperloop — a ground-based transportation technology that would get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under half an hour, for less than 1/10 the cost of California’s $69 billion plan.

On Monday, Musk tweeted that he will publish an “alpha design” for the Hyperloop by Aug. 12. As Slateread more

Ivanpah solar electric generating system connects to grid

September 30, 2013

ivanpah featured

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in California’s Mojave Desert produced its first output of energy when the first of three towers was synchronized last week to the power grid for the first time.

Power generated from Ivanpah will first go to Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E), followed by Southern California Edison in the coming months.

Ivanpah is the largest solar thermal plant in the… read more

Coffee drinkers have lower risk of death: NIH study

May 18, 2012

A_small_cup_of_coffee

Older adults who drank coffee — caffeinated or decaffeinated — had a lower risk of death overall than others who did not drink coffee, according a study by researchers from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), part of the National Institutes of Health, and AARP.

Coffee drinkers were less likely to die from heart disease, respiratory disease, stroke, injuries and accidents, diabetes, and infections, although the association was… read more

How to erase fear from your brain

September 24, 2012

Amygdala activity predicts return of fear and correlates with recall of fear. (A) In the 6 hours group (top), activity in the amygdala (where fear memories are stored) predicted return of fear 2 days later.  In the 10 min group (bottom), an area in the right temporal claustrum extending into the amygdala was also related to SCR (x, y, z = 33, 2, –23; Z = 2.49; P = 0.006; 324 mm3). Because fear did not return in the 10 min group, the correlation may reflect individual brain-behavior relations unrelated to fear and the experimental manipulation. (B) In the 6 hours group (top), recall of fear during extinction covaried with the strength of amygdala activity bilaterally (x, y, z = 24, –1, –20; Z = 2.35; P = 0.009; 378 mm3; x, y, z = –15, 4, –17; Z=2.27; P = 0.012; 189mm3). No covariation existed in the 10min group (bottom).(Credit: T. Agren, J. Engman, A. Frick, J. Bjorkstrand, E.-M. Larsson, T. Furmark, M. Fredrikson/Science)

Newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain, Uppsala University researchers have shown.

When a person learns something, a lasting long-term memory is created with the aid of a process of consolidation, which is based on the formation of proteins. When we remember something, the memory becomes unstable for a while and is then restabilized by another consolidation process.

In other words,… read more

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