science + technology news

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Google announces new ‘Talk to Books’ semantic-search feature

Answers to your questions in more than 100,000 books
April 13, 2018

Talk to Books ft

Google announced today, April 13, 2018, a new experimental publicly available technology called Talk to Books, which lets you ask questions in plain-English sentences to discover relevant information from more than 100,000 books, comprising 600 million sentences.

For example, if you ask, “Can AIs have consciousness?,” Talk to Books returns a list of books that include information on that specific question.

read more

Intelligence-augmentation device lets users ‘speak silently’ with a computer by just thinking

April 6, 2018

MIT Media Lab researcher Arnav Kapur demonstrates the AlterEgo project (credit: Lorrie Lejeune/MIT)</p>
<p>Image: Lorrie Lejeune/MIT

MIT researchers have invented a system that allows someone to communicate silently and privately with a computer or the internet by simply thinking — without requiring any facial muscle movement.

The AlterEgo system consists of a wearable device with electrodes that pick up otherwise undetectable neuromuscular subvocalizations — saying words “in your head” in natural language. The signals are fed to a neural network that is trained to identify… read more

Are you ready for atom-thin, ‘invisible’ displays everywhere?

April 4, 2018

invisible display ft

Bloomberg reported this morning (April 4) that Apple is planning a new iPhone with touchless gesture control and displays that curve inward gradually from top to bottom. Apple’s probable use of microLED technology promises to offer “power savings and a reduced screen thickness when put beside current-generation display panels,”according to Apple Insider.

But UC Berkeley engineers have an even more radical concept for future electronics:… read more

DARPA-funded prosthetic memory system successful in humans, study finds

Coded electrical signal reinforces memories in patients, supporting pioneering research at USC and Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
April 3, 2018

Hippocampal prosthesis restores memory functions by creating “MIMO” model-based electrical stimulation of the hippocampus --- bypassing a damaged brain region (red X). (credit: USC)

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the University of Southern California (USC) Viterbi School of Engineering have demonstrated a neural prosthetic system that can improve a memory by “writing” information “codes” (based on a patient’s specific memory patterns) into the hippocampus of human subjects via an electrode implanted in the hippocampus (a part of the brain involved in making new memories).… read more

round-up | Five important biomedical technology breakthroughs

Ranging from AI-enhanced medical imaging to nanometer-scale MRI and a skin-implantable biosensor
March 30, 2018

PrintrBot Simple Metal modified with the LVE for FRESH printing. (credit: Adam Feinberg/HardwareX)

Printing your own bioprinter

Now you can build your own low-cost 3-D bioprinter by modifying a standard commercial desktop 3-D printer for under $500 — thanks to an open-source “LVE 3-D” design developed by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers. CMU provides detailed instructional videos.

You can print artificial human tissue scaffolds on a larger scale (entire human heart) and at higher resolution and quality, the researchers… read more

The brain learns completely differently than we’ve assumed, new learning theory says

New post-Hebb brain-learning model may lead to new brain treatments and breakthroughs in faster deep learning
March 28, 2018


A revolutionary new theory contradicts a fundamental assumption in neuroscience about how the brain learns. According to researchers at Bar-Ilan University in Israel led by Prof. Ido Kanter, the theory promises to transform our understanding of brain dysfunction and may lead to advanced, faster, deep-learning algorithms.

The brain is a highly complex network containing billions of neurons. Each of these neurons communicates simultaneously with thousands of others… read more

Next-gen optical disc has 10TB capacity and six-century lifespan

A future alternative to hard disks and Blu ray for storing exponentially exploding zettabytes of “Long Data” in energy-intensive data centers
March 26, 2018

Data center (credit: Getty)

Scientists from RMIT University in Australia and Wuhan Institute of Technology in China have developed a radical new high-capacity optical disc called “nano-optical long-data memory” that they say can record and store 10 TB (terabytes, or trillions of bytes) of data per disc securely for more than 600 years. That’s a four-times increase of storage density and 300 times increase in data lifespan over current storage… read more

Recording data from one million neurons in real time

Applications include monitoring the brain in paralyzed patients, watching for epileptic seizure signs, and real-time feedback for robotic arms
March 23, 2018


Neuroscientists at the Neuronano Research Centre at Lund University in Sweden have developed and tested an ambitious new design for processing and storing the massive amounts of data expected from future implantable brain machine interfaces (BMIs) and brain-computer interfaces (BCIs).

The system would simultaneously acquire data from more than 1 million neurons in real time. It would convert the spike data (using bit encoding) and send it… read more

New algorithm will allow for simulating neural connections of entire brain on future exascale supercomputers

March 21, 2018

(credit: iStock)

An international team of scientists has developed an algorithm that represents a major step toward simulating neural connections in the entire human brain.

The new algorithm, described in an open-access paper published in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, is intended to allow simulation of the human brain’s 100 billion interconnected neurons on supercomputers. The work involves researchers at the Jülich Research Centre, Norwegian University of Life… read more

DARPA-funded ‘body on a chip’ microfluidic system could revolutionize drug evaluation

Linked by microfluidic channels, compact system replicates interactions of 2 million human-tissue cells in 10 “organs on chips,” replacing animal testing
March 19, 2018

To measure the effects of drugs on different parts of the body, this microfluidic platform can connect engineered tissues from up to 10 artificial organs, allowing researchers to accurately replicate human-organ interactions for weeks at a time. (credit: Felice Frankel)

MIT bioengineers have developed a new microfluidic platform technology that could be used to evaluate new drugs and detect possible side effects before the drugs are tested in humans.

The microfluidic platform can connect 3D tissues from up to 10 organs. Replacing animal testing, it can accurately replicate human-organ interactions for weeks at a time and can allow for measuring the effects of drugs on different parts of the… read more

‘Minimalist machine learning’ algorithm analyzes complex microscopy and other images from very little data

Key tool for Chan-Zuckerberg-sponsored Human Cell Atlas project
March 16, 2018

These are images of a slice of mouse lymphblastoid cells; a. is the raw data, b is the corresponding manual segmentation and c is the output of an MS-D network with 100 layers. (credit: Data from A. Ekman and C. Larabell, National Center for X-ray Tomography.)

Mathematicians at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have developed a radical new approach to machine learning: a new type of highly efficient “deep convolutional neural network” that can automatically analyze complex experimental scientific images from limited data.*

As experimental facilities generate higher-resolution images at higher speeds, scientists struggle to manage and analyze the resulting data, which is often done painstakingly by hand.

For example, biologists record cell… read more

Neuroscientists devise scheme for mind-uploading centuries in the future

March 14, 2018

Representative electron micrograph of white matter region in cryopreserved pig brain (credit: Brain Preservation Foundation)

Two researchers — Robert McIntyre, an MIT graduate, and Gregory M. Fahy, PhD., 21st Century Medicine (21CM) Chief Scientific Officer, have developed a method for scanning a preserved brain’s connectome (the 150 trillion microscopic synaptic connections presumed to encode all of a person’s knowledge).

That data could possibly be used, centuries later, to reconstruct a whole-brain emulation — uploading your mind into a computer… read more

A high-density, stretchable, 32-electrode grid for neural recording and neurological disorder treatment

A potential Neuralink device? (see SXSW video)
March 12, 2018

Photo of a new soft, elastic, high-density 32-electrode grid for long-term, stable neural recording and treatment of neurological disorders. It’s based on a novel elastic material that's biocompatible and retains high electrical conductivity, even when stretched to double its original length. The 32 electrodes shown here are each 50 micrometers wide and located at a distance of 200 micrometers from each other. The fabrication procedure allows 32 electrodes to be placed onto a very small surface. The electrode grid is 3.2 millimeters wide and 80 micrometers thick. (credit: Thor Balkhed)

An international team has developed a soft, elastic, high-density stretchable electrode grid for long-term, stable neural recording, and diagnosis and treatment of neurological disorders, such as epilepsy.

Researchers at Linköping University and ETH Zürich developed the biocompatible, soft-material composite, which avoids the usual damage and inflammation to neurons from rigid metallic electrodes and components.

The material consists of gold coated titanium dioxide nanowires embedded… read more

Super-resolution microscopy captures images in both space and time

High-speed “4D” views inside living cells
March 9, 2018

Cell image using color-coded depth

Scientists at the Laboratory of Biomedical Optics (LOB) at EPFL (École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne) in Switzerland have developed the first microscope platform that can perform “super-resolution” imaging in both space and time — capturing unprecedented “4D” views inside living cells. The landmark paper is published in Nature Photonics and on open-access ArXiv.

Super-resolution microscopy is a technique (covered extensively onread more

Metalens with artificial muscle simulates (and goes way beyond) human-eye and camera optical functions

Thin, flat structure promises to revolutionize eyeglasses, cameras, microscopes, and augmented and virtual-reality optics
March 2, 2018

A metalens (made of silicon) mounted on a transparent, stretchy polymer film, without any electrodes. The colorful iridescence is produced by the large number of nanostructures within the metalens. (credit:Harvard SEAS)

Researchers at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a breakthrough electronically controlled artificial eye. The thin, flat, adaptive silicon nanostructure (“metalens”) can simultaneously control focus, astigmatism, and image shift (three of the major contributors to blurry images) in real time, which the human eye (and eyeglasses) cannot do.

The 30-micrometers-thick metalens makes changes laterally to achieve optical zoom, autofocus, and… read more

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