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Cosmic web imaged for the first time

January 20, 2014

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Astronomers have discovered a distant quasar illuminating a vast nebula of diffuse gas, revealing, for the first time, part of the network of filaments thought to connect galaxies in a cosmic web.

Researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz led the study, published January 19 in Nature.

Using the 10-meter Keck I Telescope at the W. M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, the researchers detected a… read more

What does the assistive robot of the future look like?

October 16, 2013

human vs robot face

It depends. Older and younger people have varying preferences about what they would want a personal robot to look like, and they change their minds based on what the robot is supposed to do, a new study from the Georgia Institute of Technology has found.

Participants were shown a series of photos portraying either robotic, human, or mixed human-robot faces and were asked to select… read more

IBM’s Watson goes to medical school

November 2, 2012

(Credit: IBM)

Next up for Watson: a stint as a medical student at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University, New York Times Bits reports.

The collaboration includes a bit of controlled crowdsourcing, with the Cleveland clinicians and medical school students answering Watson’s questions and correcting its mistakes.

“Hopefully, we can contribute to the training of… read more

Are three-person designer babies ethical?

The Hastings Center asks how should parents determine what sort of child they have?
March 17, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

From genetic and genomic testing to new techniques in human assisted reproduction, various technologies are providing parents with more of a say about the children they have and “stirring the pot of designer baby concerns,” writes Thomas H. Murray, President Emeritus of The Hastings Center, in a commentary in Science.

Murray calls for a national conversation about how much discretion would-be parents should have. “Preventing a lethal… read more

Harvard scientists to build Iron Man-like suit for military

July 26, 2012

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Harvard University scientists are working on an Iron Man-like smart suit that could improve soldiers’ endurance in war zones, Network World reports.

The university received a $2.6 million research grant for the project from DARPA.

The suit, which is expected to include sensors and its own energy source, will be designed to delay the onset of fatigue, enabling soldiers to travel further in the field, while… read more

Stronger than a speeding bullet, but lighter

New tests of nanostructured material could lead to better armor against everything from gunfire to micrometeorites
November 9, 2012

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While traditional shields have been made of bulky materials such as steel, body armor made of lightweight material such as Kevlar has shown that thickness and weight are not necessary for absorbing the energy of impacts.

Now, a new study by researchers at MIT and Rice University has shown that even lighter materials may be capable of doing the job just as effectively.… read more

A cardboard bike

October 18, 2012

cardboard-bike

Working from his garden shed, Israeli inventor Izhar Gafni has invented a $20 cardboard bike, says The Telegraph.

The solid tires are made of reconstituted rubber from old car tires and some proprietary materials have been added for water protection and other purposes.

“This is a real game changer,” said Nimrod Elmish, Gafni’s business partner. ”It changes … the way products are manufactured and shipped, it causes factories to… read more

A challenge facing designers of future computer chips

November 8, 2012

The total conductance per unit area is similar for both tungsten (W) and gold (Au). However, by joining the two highly conducting metals, one finds a conductance density that is about 4 times lower of either material individually. (Credit: David J. Olivera et al./PNAS)

To build the computer chips of the future, designers will need to understand how an electrical charge behaves when it is confined to metal wires only a few atom-widths in diameter.

Researchers at at McGill University General Motors R&D, have shown that electrical current could be drastically reduced when wires from two dissimilar metals meet. The surprisingly sharp reduction in current reveals a significant challenge… read more

When does your baby become conscious?

April 19, 2013

smart_kid

New research shows that babies display glimmers of consciousness and memory as early as 5 months old, Science Now reports.

Studies on adults show a particular pattern of brain activity: When your senses detect something, such as a moving object, the vision center of your brain activates, even if the object goes by too fast for you to notice. But if the object remains in your visual… read 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

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

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

Information wants to be free, but the world isn’t ready

January 24, 2013

“Every few years, one of my friends from the early days of digital enthusiasm turns up on the media’s radar as a ‘defector,’” R.U. Sirius, former editor-in-chief of Mondo 2000, writes on The Verge. …

The latest chapter of this saga, “What Turned Jaron Lanier Against the Web,” … portrays Jaron Lanier (You Are Not A Gadget) as being like a… read more

Your memory can be altered by interfering information

A six-hour window
June 6, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

You can manipulate an existing memory simply by suggesting new or different information, Iowa State University researchers have shown.

The key is timing and recall of that memory, said Jason Chan, an assistant professor of psychology at Iowa State.

“If you reactivate a memory by retrieving it, that memory becomes susceptible to changes again. And if at that time, you give people new contradictory… read more

We’re underestimating the risk of human extinction

March 7, 2012

h-bomb

Unthinkable as it may be, humanity, every last person, could someday be wiped from the face of the Earth. We have learned to worry about asteroids and supervolcanoes, but the more-likely scenario, according to Nick Bostrom, a professor of philosophy at Oxford, is that we humans will destroy ourselves.

Most worrying to Bostrom is the subset of existential risks that arise from human technology, a subset that he expects… read more

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