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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

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

Civilization faces ‘perfect storm of ecological and social problems’

February 22, 2012

(credit: BP)

Celebrated scientists and development thinkers today warn that civilization is faced with a perfect storm of ecological and social problems driven by overpopulation, overconsumption, and environmentally malign technologies.

In the face of an “absolutely unprecedented emergency,” say the 18 past winners of the Blue Planet prize — the unofficial Nobel for the environment — society has “no choice but to take dramatic action to avert a collapse of civilisation. Either we… read more

Quantum robots will be more creative, faster, smarter, say researchers

October 8, 2014

The theoretical work has focused on using quantum computing to accelerate the machine learning. (Credit: SINC)

Quantum computing should be applied to robots, automatons, and other agents that use AI to make them more creative and to learn and respond faster than conventional robots, researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) and the University of Innsbruck (Austria) recommend.

In a study in the journal ‘Physical Review X’ modeling the use of quantum physics in future robots (and other agents), they demonstrate that… read more

2045: The Year Man Becomes Immortal

February 10, 2011

timecover

Time magazine just published a comprehensive cover story on the Singularity and Ray Kurzweil’s “radical vision for humanity’s immortal future.”

“Kurzweil’s interest in humanity’s cyborganic destiny began about 1980 largely as a practical matter. He needed ways to measure and track the pace of technological progress…(Kurzweil) has been publishing his thoughts about the future of human and machine-kind for 20 years, most recently in The Singularity Isread more

Bell Labs invents lensless camera

June 4, 2013

Lensless camera (credit: Gang Huang, Hong Jiang, Kim Matthews, Paul Wilford)

Researchers at Bell Labs in New Jersey say they’ve used compressive sensing to build a camera that needs no lens and uses only a single sensing pixel to take photographs, MIT Technology Review reports.

What’s more, the images from this camera are never out of focus.

The invention could revolutionize optical, infrared and millimeter-wave imaging

This revolutionary lensless camera has a number of advantages over… read more

3D printing lowers environmental impact, says study

October 5, 2013

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Making things at home on a 3D printer uses less energy — and therefore releases less carbon dioxide — than producing it in a factory and shipping it to a warehouse.

That’s according to a study led by Joshua Pearce, an associate professor of materials science and engineering/electrical and computer engineering at Michigan Technological University.

The team conducted life-cycle impact analyses on three products:… read more

Could we build a 20-kilometer-high space tower?

September 12, 2012

(NASA MSFC, Artist Pat Rawling)

Science-fiction novelist Neal Stephenson imagines a 20-kilometer-high steel tower that reaches into the stratosphere.

From that height, planes could save fuel by docking at the tower rather than landing, and space missions could do the same by launching from it.

Stephenson is teaming up with a structural engineer, Keith Hjelmstad at Arizona State University (ASU), to work out how to actually build the tower, New Scientist reports.… read more

How the brain ‘takes out the trash’ while we sleep

October 18, 2013

cerebral_spinal_fluid

A new study shows that a recently discovered system that flushes waste from the brain is primarily active during sleep, giving fresh meaning to the old adage that a good night’s sleep clears the mind.

This revelation could transform scientists’ understanding of the biological purpose of sleep and point to new ways to treat neurological disorders.

“This study shows that the brain has different functional states… read more

When slower is faster: how to get rid of traffic lights

Communicating vehicles could zip through intersections more efficiently, but would they be hackable?
March 18, 2016

Intersection congestion (credit: Google Earth)

Traffic-light-free transportation design, if it ever arrives, could allow twice as much traffic to use the roads, according to a newly published open-access study in PLoS One co-authored by MIT researchers.

The idea is based on future vehicles equipped with the kind of sensors used in autonomous vehicles and that communicate wirelessly with each other, rather than grinding to a halt at traffic lights.

The researchers created a… read more

The future of education eliminates the classroom, because the world is your class

March 25, 2013

Hypercities (credit: UCLA et at.)

Technology can turn our entire lives into learning experiences via “socialstructed learning,” an aggregation of microlearning experiences drawn from a rich ecology of content and driven not by grades but by social and intrinsic rewards, suggests Marina Gorbis, Executive Director at the Institute for the Future, in Fast Company.

“Today’s obsession with MOOCs is a reminder of the old forecasting paradigm: In the early stages of technology… read more

Disruptions: on the fast track to routine 3D printing

February 19, 2013

makerbot

Hod Lipson, an associate professor and the director of the Creative Machines Lab at Cornell, said “3D printing is worming its way into almost every industry, from entertainment, to food, to bio- and medical-applications,” The New York Times reports.

Dr. Lipson, the co-author of “Fabricated: The New World of 3D Printing,” said… read more

Morality for robots?

September 5, 2012

machine-question-book

In new book, NIU Northern Illinois University Professor David Gunkel examines ethical questions raised by 21st century computers, robots and artificial intelligence.

On the topic of computers, artificial intelligence and robots,  he says science fiction is fast becoming “science fact.”

Fictional depictions of artificial intelligence have run the gamut from the loyal Robot in “Lost in Space” to the killer computer HAL in “2001:… read 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

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