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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

NASA discovers first near-Earth-size planet in the habitable zone around a Sun-like star

July 23, 2015

This artist's concept compares Earth (left) to the new planet, called Kepler-452b, which is about 60 percent larger in diameter (credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle)

NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a Sun-like star. This discovery joins 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets, marking another milestone in the journey to find another “Earth.”

The newly discovered Kepler-452b, located 1,400 light-years away in the constellation Cygnus, is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone — the area around a star where liquid… 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

Russian billionaire, Hawking announce $100 million search for ET

July 20, 2015

100 meter Green Bank Telescope, the world's largest steerable radio telescope (credit: Geremia/Wikimedia Commons)

Russian billionaire Yuri Milner, Stephen Hawking, Martin Rees, Frank Drake and others announced at The Royal Society today $100 million funding for Breakthrough Listen — the “most powerful, comprehensive, and intensive scientific search ever undertaken for signs of intelligent life beyond Earth.”

They also announced $1 million prize funding for Breakthrough Message, a competition to generate messages representing humanity and planet Earth.

“It’s time to commit to finding… 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

New way to store solar energy for use whenever it’s needed

July 14, 2011

Storing solar energy in chemical form (credit: Grossman/Kolpak)

MIT researchers have developed a new application of carbon nanotubes that shows promise as an innovative approach to storing solar energy for use whenever it’s needed.

Storing the sun’s heat in chemical form — rather than first converting it to electricity or storing the heat itself in a heavily insulated container — has… 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

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

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

Harvard scientists to build Iron Man-like suit for military

July 26, 2012


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

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

A cardboard bike

October 18, 2012


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

First glimpse of new concepts developing in the brain

June 12, 2015

concepts in brain-ft

Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) scientists have for the first time documented the actual formation of newly learned concepts inside the brain.

Thanks to recent advances in brain imaging technology at CMU and elsewhere, it is now known how specific concrete objects are coded in the brain — neuroscientists can identify which object, such as a house or a banana, someone is thinking about from its… read more

When does your baby become conscious?

April 19, 2013


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

The coming revolution in alternative proteins

February 20, 2015

(credit: FutureFood 2050)

Are you ready for cricket-flour energy bars and “steaks” constructed from strips of lab-grown animal muscle fibers?

Some of us may not have a choice. Feeding the rapidly expanding world population will require 470 million tons of annual meat production by 2050, an increase of more than 200 million tons from current annual levels, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).… read more

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