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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

Super-elastic conducting fibers for artificial muscles, sensors, capacitors

Could lead to super-elastic electronic circuits, robots and exoskeletons with great reach, morphing aircraft, giant-range strain sensors, and failure-free pacemaker leads
July 24, 2015

UT Dallas scientists have constructed novel fibers by wrapping sheets of tiny carbon nanotubes to form a sheath around a long rubber core. This illustration shows complex two-dimensional buckling, shown in yellow, of the carbon nanotube sheath/rubber-core fiber. The buckling results in a conductive fiber with super elasticity and novel electronic properties. (credit: UT Dallas Alan G. MacDiarmid Nanotech Institute)

An international research team based at The University of Texas at Dallas has made electrically conducting fibers that can be reversibly stretched to more than 14 times their initial length and whose electrical conductivity increases 200-fold when stretched.

The research team is using the new fibers to make artificial muscles, as well as capacitors with energy storage capacity that increases about tenfold when the fibers… read more

Novel DNA origami structures

New nanoscale design concepts by one day lead to methods for finding cancer cells in the body or act as robot assembly lines for the design of new drugs
July 24, 2015

The versatility of the 3D wireframe design technique created by Arizona State University Biodesign Institute researcher Hao Yan is demonstrated here with the construction of the snub cube, an Archimedean solid with 60 edges, 24 vertices and 38 faces including 6 squares and 32 equilateral triangles. (credit: TED-43/Wikimedia Commons)

Hao Yan, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, has extended DNA origami — which uses combinations of DNA base pairs to create new 2-D and 3-D nanoforms — into imaginative new forms that may one day lead to microelectronics and biomedical innovations.

“Earlier design methods [for DNA origami] used strategies including parallel arrangement of DNA helices to approximate arbitrary shapes, but precise… read more

An anti-inflammatory ‘smart drug’ that activates only in high-inflammation areas

Important solution for immunosuppressed patients, older patients, and those undergoing chemotherapy
July 24, 2015

Chimeric IL-1Ra protein combines the N-terminal peptide of IL-1beta (left) and IL-1Ra (right), resulting in inactive IL-1Ra (credit: Peleg Rider et al./Journal of Immunology)

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) in Israel and University of Colorado researchers have developed a dynamic anti-inflammatory “smart” drug that can target specific sites in the body and could enhance the body’s natural ability to fight infection while reducing side effects.

This protein molecule, reported in the current issue of Journal of Immunology, has an exceptional property: when injected, it’s non-active. But upon reaching a… 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

The CRISPR craze: genome editing technologies poised to revolutionize medicine and industry

July 22, 2015

Genome editing by engineered Cas9 systems (credit: Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., publishers)

CRISPR/Cas systems for genome editing have revolutionized biological research over the past three years, and their ability to make targeted changes in DNA sequences in living cells with relative ease and affordability is now being applied to clinical medicine and will have a significant impact on advances in drug and other therapies, agriculture, and food products.

The power and promise of this innovation are presented in the… read more

Phosphorene could lead to ultrathin solar cells

How to make it using simple sticky tape; peeling off layers changes its properties
July 22, 2015

peeling black phosphorus

Australian National University | Sticky tape the key to ultrathin solar cells

Scientists at Australian National University (ANU) have used simple transparent sticky (aka “Scotch”) tape to create single-atom-thick layers of phosphorene from “black phosphorus,” a black crystalline form of phosphorus similar to graphite (which is used to create graphene).

Unlike graphene, phosphorene is a natural semiconductor that can be switched… read more

3D-printing basic electronic components

Just hit “print” to create an electronic circuit or wireless sensor in the comfort of your own home
July 22, 2015

UC Berkeley engineers created a "smart cap" using 3-D-printed plastic with embedded electronics to wirelessly monitor the freshness of milk. (credit: Photo by Sung-Yueh Wu)

UC Berkeley engineers, in collaboration with colleagues at Taiwan’s National Chiao Tung University, have developed a 3D printing process for creating basic electronic components, such as resistors, inductors, capacitors, and integrated wireless electrical sensing systems.

As a test, they printed a wireless “smart cap” for a milk carton that detected signs of spoilage using embedded sensors.

The findings were published Monday, July 20, in… read more

Common chemicals may act together to increase cancer risk, international study finds

July 22, 2015

Disruptive potential ft

Common environmental chemicals assumed to be safe at low doses may act separately or together to disrupt human tissues in ways that eventually lead to cancer, according to a task force of almost 200 scientists from 28 countries.

In a nearly three-year investigation of the state of knowledge about environmentally influenced cancers, the scientists studied low-dose effects of 85 common chemicals not considered to be carcinogenic to humans.… read more

Deep Genomics launches, uniting deep learning and genome biology

University of Toronto spinoff aims to transform genetic testing, pharmaceutical development, and personalized medicine
July 22, 2015

“Deep learning” reveals the genetic origins of disease. A computational system mimics the biology of RNA splicing by correlating DNA elements with splicing levels in healthy human tissues. The system can scan DNA and identify damaging genetic variants, including those deep within introns.This procedure has led to insights into the genetics of autism, cancers, and spinal muscular atrophy. (credit: Hui Y. Xiong et al./Science)

Deep Genomics, a University of Toronto spinoff, launched today (July 22), combining deep learning and artificial intelligence with the study of the human genome. The company is building on more than a decade of research and expertise in both fields.

Using deep learning allows Deep Genomics to predict the consequences of genomic alteration on various cell mechanisms to make life-changing decisions, potentially via personalized medicine… read more

Korean researchers grow wafer-scale graphene on a silicon substrate

A key step toward using graphene in commercial silicon microelectronics
July 21, 2015

Wafer-scale (4 inch in diameter) synthesis of multi-layer graphene using high-temperature carbon ion implantation on nickel / SiO2 /silicon. (credit: J.Kim/Korea University, Korea)

Taking graphene a step closer to realistic commercial applications in silicon microelectronics, Korea University researchers have developed a simple microelectronics-compatible method for growing multi-layer graphene on a high-quality, wafer-scale (four inches in diameter) silicon substrate.

The method is based on the ion implantation technique — a process in which ions are accelerated under an electrical field and smashed into a semiconductor. The impacting ions change the physical, chemical,… read more

Deep neural network program recognizes sketches more accurately than a human

July 21, 2015

The program could successfully identify a seagull, pigeon, flying bird and standing bird better than humans. (credit: Credit: QMUL, Mathias Eitz, James Hays and Marc Alexa)

The first computer program that can recognize hand-drawn sketches better than humans has been developed by researchers from Queen Mary University of London.

Known as Sketch-a-Net, the program correctly identified the subject of sketches 74.9 per cent of the time compared to humans that only managed a success rate of 73.1 per cent.

As sketching becomes more relevant with the increase in the use of touchscreens, it could… read more

Metal foams found to excel in shielding X-rays, gamma rays, neutron radiation

May lead to better shielding for nuclear reactors and space travel
July 20, 2015

Research from North Carolina State University shows that lightweight composite metal foams -- like the one pictured here -- are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high impact collisions. The finding means the metal foams hold promise for use in nuclear safety, space exploration and medical technology applications. (credit: Afsaneh Rabiei, North Carolina State University)

North Carolina State University researchers have found that lightweight composite metal foams they had developed are effective at blocking X-rays, gamma rays, and neutron radiation, and are capable of absorbing the energy of high-impact collisions. The finding holds promise for use in nuclear power plants, space exploration, and CT-scanner shielding.

“This work means there’s an opportunity to use composite metal foam… 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

Brain-inspired algorithms may make for optimized computational networks

Quantifying the rates of synapse pruning in the mammalian neocortex led to new algorithms for constructing adaptive and robust computational networks across several domains
July 19, 2015

Salk and Carnegie Mellon researchers developed a new model for building efficient networks by studying the rate at which the brain prunes back some of its connections during development. In this model, nodes (such as neurons or sensors) make too many connections (left) before pruning back to connections that are most relevant (right). The team applied their synaptic pruning-based algorithm to air flight patterns and found it was able to create routes to allow passengers to reach their destinations efficiently. (credit: Salk Institute and Carnegie Mellon University)

The developing brain prunes (eliminates) unneeded connections between neurons during early childhood. Now researchers from the Salk Institute for Biological Studies and Carnegie Mellon University have determined the rate at which that happens, and the implications of that finding for computational networks.

Neurons create networks through a process called pruning. At birth and throughout early childhood, the brain’s neurons make a vast number… read more

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