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Do we have free will?

Neuroscientists run the ultimate experiment to find out: a "duel" between human and brain-to-computer interface (BCI)
January 8, 2016

This image shows a participant during the experiment. (credit: Charité, Carsten Bogler)

It’s a question that’s been debated by philosophers for centuries. Now neuroscientists from Charité –Universitätsmedizin Berlin have run an experiment to find out, using a “duel” game between human and brain-computer interface (BCI).

As KurzweilAI reported last year:
In the early 1980s, University of California, San Francisco neuroscientist Benjamin Libet conducted an experiment to assess the nature of free will. Subjects hooked up to an electroencephalogram (EEG)… read more

Cognitive-stimulation experiment suggests new tools for healthy brain aging

May also have a "preventive and therapeutic role in association with early AD-type neurodegeneration"
January 8, 2016

DMN connections

Neuroscientists in Italy and the U.K. have developed cognitive-stimulation exercises and tested them in a month-long experiment with healthy aging adults. The exercises were based on studies of the brain’s resting state, known as the “default mode network”* (DMN).

In a paper published in Brain Research Bulletin, the researchers explain that in aging (and at a pathological level in AD patients), the posterior (back) region of the DMN in the… read more

‘Fast radio burst’ signals from space a better test of Einstein’s General Relativity theory

January 7, 2016

This is a schematic illustration of CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope receiving the polarised signal from the new 'fast radio burst'. (Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions)

Physicists have developed a new way to test one of the basic principles underlying Einstein’s theory of General Relativity, which states that the geometry of spacetime is curved by the mass density of individual galaxies, stars, planets, and other objects.

The new method uses brief blasts of rare radio signals from space called fast radio bursts (FRBs) (see “Mysterious cosmic burst of radio waves detected by astronomers“… read more

‘Solar thermal fuel’ polymer film can harvest sunlight by day, release heat on-demand

Clothing that keeps you warm and windshields that melt ice are two of the possible uses
January 7, 2016

Solar thermal fuel polymer film comprised of three distinct layers (4 to 5 microns in thickness for each). Cross-linking after each layer enables building up films of tunable thickness. (credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

MIT researchers have developed a new transparent polymer film that can store solar energy during the day and release it later as heat, whenever needed. The material could be applied to many different surfaces, such as window glass or clothing.

The new material solves a problem with renewable solar energy: the Sun is not available at night or on stormy days. Most solutions have focused on storing and recovering… read more

An 18-inch video display you can roll up like a newspaper

January 6, 2016

(credit: LG)

LG is creating a buzz at CES with its concept demo of the world’s first display that can be rolled up like a newspaper.

LG says they’re aiming for 4K-quality 55-inch screens (the prototype resolution is 1,200 by 810 pixels), BBC reports.

The trick:  switching from LED to thinner, more-flexible OLED technology (organic light-emitting diodes), allowing for a 2.57 millimeter-thin display. One limitation: the screen… read more

Cell-free protein synthesis device is potential lifesaver

Lives of soldiers and others injured in remote locations could be saved with a cell-free protein synthesis device; could also produce custom orphan drugs and personalized medicines at low cost
January 6, 2016

This section of a serpentine channel reactor shows the parallel reactor and feeder channels separated by a nanoporous membrane. At left is a single nanopore viewed from the side; at right is a diagram of metabolite exchange across the membrane. (credit: ORNL)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory scientists have developed a device that uses microfabricated bioreactors to produce therapeutic proteins for medicines and biopharmaceuticals. These miniature factories are cell-free, eliminating the need to maintain a living system, which radically simplifies the process and lowers cost, and makes the device easily adaptable for use in isolated locations and at disaster sites.

On-demand, point-of-care therapeutic protein synthesis requires that a dose of… read more

New synthetic molecular prosthetic cell acts as AND gate for disease treatment

January 6, 2016

Cytokine converter ft

An advanced “molecular prosthetic” — a cell with synthetic gene circuits that can be implanted into an organism to take over metabolic functions that the organism cannot perform itself — has been developed by  ETH Zurich scientists.

Previous gene circuits typically monitored only whether one disease-causing molecule (called a cytokine) was present in their environment and if so, produced a single therapeutic cytokine as a response. The… read more

Real-time 3-D video of nematode brains links neurons with motion and behavior

January 5, 2016

C elegans neural activity

Princeton University researchers have captured some of the first near-whole-brain recordings of 3-D neural activity of a free-moving animal, and at single-neuron resolution. They studied the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans, a worm species 1 millimeter long with a nervous system containing just 302 neurons.

The three-dimensional recordings could provide scientists with a better understanding of how neurons coordinate action and perception in animals.

As the researchers report in… read more

Feeling like things are speeding up?

Happy Perihelion Day! So what are your predictions for 2016?
January 2, 2016


That may be because they are: Earth is rushing along right now at about 30 kilometers per second (almost 19 miles per second) — moving about a kilometer per second faster than when Earth will be farthest from the Sun on July 4, notes Bruce McClure of EarthSky Tonight.*

Or maybe it’s the accelerating pace of new developments? Tech predictions for 2016 are ranging from “Intelligent agents… read more

Practical artificial intelligence tools you can use today

December 30, 2015

(credit: KurzweilAI)

By Bob Gourley
Courtesy of

Practical artificial intelligence has made its way out of the labs and into our daily lives. And judging from the pace of activity in the startup community and the major IT powerhouses, it will only grow in its ability to help us all get things done.

Most AI solutions today are fielded by the big players in IT.  For example, … read more

Single-molecule detection of contaminants, explosives or diseases now possible

December 30, 2015

Artistic illustration showing an ultrasensitive detection platform termed slippery liquid infused porous surface-enhanced Raman scattering (SLIPSERS). In this platform, an aqueous or oil droplet containing gold nanoparticles and captured analytes is allowed to evaporate on a slippery substrate, leading to the formation of a highly compact nanoparticle aggregate for surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS) detection. (credit: Shikuan Yang, Birgitt Boschitsch Stogin and Tak-Sing Wong/Penn State)

Penn State researchers have invented a way to detect single molecules of a number of chemical and biological species from gaseous, liquid or solid samples, with applications in analytical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, environmental monitoring and national security.

The invention is called SLIPSERS, an acronym combining “slippery liquid-infused porous surfaces” (SLIPS) and surface enhanced Raman scattering (SERS).*

“Being able to identify a single molecule is… read more

The top A.I. breakthroughs of 2015

December 29, 2015

(credit: iStock)

By Richard Mallah
Courtesy of Future of Life Institute

Progress in artificial intelligence and machine learning has been impressive this year. Those in the field acknowledge progress is accelerating year by year, though it is still a manageable pace for us. The vast majority of work in the field these days actually builds on previous work done by other teams earlier the same year, in contrast… read more

How brain architecture relates to consciousness and abstract thought

Could lead to better ways to identify and treat brain diseases and to new deep-learning AI systems
December 29, 2015

Generated by human-blind automated procedures, this diagram depicts an oversimplified graphical model of the information representation flow from sensory inputs (bottom) to abstract representations (top) in human cortex. Bottom layer of the pyramid included a sample representative description of the 20th percentile of behavioral elements closest to sensory inputs, the next layer up includes a sample description of behavioral elements from the 20–40th percentile…with the top layer containing a sample description of the behavioral elements distributed deepest in the cortical network, at the structural pinnacle of cognition. (credit: P. Taylor et al./Nature Scientific Reports)

Ever wonder how your brain creates your thoughts, based on everything that’s happening around you (and within you), and where these thoughts are actually located in the brain?

UMass Amherst computational neuroscientist Hava Siegelmann has, and she created a geometry-based method for doing just that. Her team did a massive data analysis of 20 years of functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data from tens of thousands of… read more

Optoelectronic microprocessors shown to dramatically reduce chips’ power consumption

High-performance prototype built using existing chip manufacturing means chipmakers could now start building optoelectronic chips
December 28, 2015

Researchers have produced a working optoelectronic chip that computes electronically but uses light to move information. The chip has 850 optical components and 70 million transistors, which, while significantly less than the billion-odd transistors of a typical microprocessor, is enough to demonstrate all the functionality that a commercial optical chip would require. (credit: Glenn J. Asakawa)

Rsearchers at MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, and the University of Colorado have produced a working optoelectronic microprocessor, which computes electronically but uses light to move information — using only processes found in existing microchip fabrication facilities.

Optical communication could dramatically reduce chips’ power consumption, which is essential to maintaining the steady increases in computing power that we’ve come to expect.

Demonstrating that… read more

Algorithm turns smartphones into 3-D scanners

December 28, 2015

Unsynchronized structured light-ft

An algorithm developed by Brown University researchers my help bring high-quality 3-D depth-scanning capability to standard commercial digital cameras and smartphones.

“The 3-D scanners on the market today are either very expensive or unable to do high-resolution image capture, so they can’t be used for applications where details are important,” said Gabriel Taubin, a professor in Brown’s School of Engineering — like 3-D printing.… read more

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