science + technology news

AI and robotics researchers call for global ban on autonomous weapons

"If any major military power pushes ahead with AI weapon development, a global arms race is virtually inevitable"
July 27, 2015

FLI

More than 1,000 leading artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics researchers and others, including Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk, just signed and published an open letter from the Future of Life Institute (FLI) today calling for a ban on offensive autonomous weapons.

FLI defines “autonomous weapons” as those that select and engage targets without human intervention, such as armed quadcopters that can search for and eliminate… 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

Bitcoin network speed 8 times faster than top 500 supercomputers combined

May 13, 2013

bitcoin

The mining speed of the bitcoin network on bitcoinwatch.com passed 1 exaFLOPS (1,000 petaFLOPS) this week — more than 8* times the combined speed of the Top 500 supercomputers, according to The Genesis Block.

(FLOPS stands for FLoating-point Operations Per Second, and is frequently used as a standard to measure computer speed.)

However, that calculation was based on 2011 supercomputer data and it’s not… read more

BigBrain: an ultra-high-resolution 3D roadmap of the human brain

June 21, 2013

BigBrain (credit: Montreal Neurological Institute and Forschungszentrum Jülich)

A landmark three-dimensional (3-D) digital reconstruction of a complete human brain, called the BigBrain, shows for the first time the brain anatomy in microscopic detail — at a spatial resolution of 20 microns, smaller than the size of one fine strand of hair — exceeding that of existing reference brains presently in the public domain.

The new tool is made freely available to the broader scientific community to advance… read more

Psychotherapy via Internet found as good as or better than face-to-face

July 31, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Online psychotherapy is just as efficient as conventional therapy, University of Zurich clinical researchers have found in a study of online psychotherapy vs. conventional face-to-face therapy.

And three months after the end of the therapy, patients given online treatment even displayed fewer symptoms.

Six therapists treated 62 patients, the majority of whom were suffering from moderate depression. The patients were divided into two equal groups… read more

A Wikipedia for robots

Allows robots to share knowledge and experience in caring for elders worldwide using a central online database
January 23, 2014

(Credit: TU/e)

European scientists from six institutes and two universities have developed an online platform where robots can learn new skills from each other worldwide — a kind of “Wikipedia for robots.”

The objective is to help develop robots better at helping elders with caring and household tasks.

“The problem right now is that robots are often developed specifically for one task”, says René van de Molengraft, TU/e researcher and… read more

Edward Snowden: NSA whistleblower answers reader questions

June 20, 2013

NSA logo

Edward Snowden took readers’ questions on why he revealed the NSA’s top-secret surveillance of U.S. citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he now faces, The Guardian reports.

[A few  excerpts --- Editor.]

Q: Some skepticism exists about certain of your claims, including this: “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone, from you, or your accountant, to… read more

Longevity gene that makes Hydra immortal also controls human aging

November 14, 2012

hydra_kiel

Why is the polyp Hydra immortal? Researchers from Kiel University decided to study it — and unexpectedly discovered a link to aging in humans.

The study carried out by  together with the Keil University Medical Center Schleswig-Holstein (UKSH)

The tiny freshwater polyp Hydra does not show any signs of aging and is potentially immortal. There is a rather simple biological explanation for this: these animals exclusively reproduceread more

Future farming to be based on robots and big data

March 9, 2015

QUT's AgBot II (credit: QUT)

The farm of the future will involve multiple lightweight, small, autonomous, energy-efficient machines (AgBots) operating collectively to weed, fertilize and control pest and diseases, while collecting vasts amount of data to enable better management decision making,” according to Queensland University of Technology (QUT) robotics Professor Tristan Perez.

“We are starting to see automation in agriculture for single processes such as animal and crop drone… read more

Omega-3 improves working memory in healthy young adults

October 31, 2012

Lovaza

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have determined that healthy young adults ages 18–25 can improve their working memory by increasing their Omega-3 fatty acid intake.

Before they began taking the supplements, all participants were asked to perform a working memory test in which they were shown a series of letters and numbers. The young adults had to keep track of what appeared one, two,… read more

Most distant galaxy discovered: 30 billion light years away

October 24, 2013

Galaxy_Large_Tilvi

The most distant spectroscopically confirmed galaxy ever found — one created at about 700 million years after the Big Bang — has been detected by astronomers at Texas A&M University and the University of Texas at Austin

“It’s exciting to know we’re the first people in the world to see this,” said Vithal Tilvi, a Texas A&M postdoctoral research associate and… read more

‘Data smashing’ could automate discovery, untouched by human hands

October 28, 2014

(Credit: iStock)

From recognizing speech to identifying unusual stars, new discoveries often begin with comparison of data streams to find connections and spot outliers. But simply feeding raw data into a data-analysis algorithm is unlikely to produce meaningful results, say the authors of a new Cornell study.

That’s because most data comparison algorithms today have one major weakness: somewhere, they rely on a human expert to specify what aspects of the… read more

Scientists discover how brain cells age

September 13, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Newcastle University researchers say they have discovered how neurons age.

Experts previously identified the molecular pathway that reacts to cell damage and stems the cell’s ability to divide, known as cell senescence. However, in cells that do not have this ability to divide, such as neurons in the brain and elsewhere, little was understood of the aging process.

Now scientists at Newcastle University, led by Professorread more

Fusion reactors ‘economically viable’ in a few decades, say experts

Could replace nuclear reactors and fossil fuels
October 5, 2015

An illustration of a tokamak with plasma (credit: ITER Organization)

Fusion reactors could become an economically viable means of generating electricity within a few decades, replacing conventional nuclear power stations, according to new research at Durham University and Culham Centre for Fusion Energy in Oxfordshire, U.K.

The research, published in the journal Fusion Engineering and Design, builds on earlier findings that a fusion power plant could generate electricity at a price similar to that of a fission plant… 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

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