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Could robots become ‘aware’ of their own limitations?

April 3, 2013

(credit: Allegra Boverman and Christine Daniloff/MIT)

MIT researchers have developed software for robots that enables them to be more “aware” of their own limitations, such as knowing the whereabouts of an object, or its own location within a room.

Most successful robots today tend to be used either in fixed, carefully controlled environments, such as manufacturing plants, or for performing fairly simple tasks such as vacuuming a room,

But carrying out complicated sequences… read more

‘Social voting’ really does rock the vote

September 14, 2012

The experiment and direct effects. Examples of the informational message and social message Facebook treatments (a) and their direct effect on voting behaviour (b). Vertical lines indicate s.e.m. (they are too small to be seen for the first two bars). (Credit: /Nature)

Brace yourself for a tidal wave of Facebook campaigning before November’s U.S. presidential election. A study of 61 million Facebook users finds that using online social networks to urge people to vote has a much stronger effect on their voting behavior than spamming them with information via television ads or phone calls, Science Now reports.

The study follows a Science paper that tracked howread more

Bioethics Commission releases volume one response to the BRAIN Initiative

May 21, 2014

(Credit: Bioethics Commission)

The Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) has released volume one of its two-part response to President Obama’s request related to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, entitled Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society.

“Neuroscience has begun to make important breakthroughs, but given the complexity of the brain, we must better understand it in order to make desired… read more

Scientists discover how to slow down aging in mice and increase longevity

Blocking a specific protein complex in the hypothalamus and injecting a hormone slow aging and cognitive decline
May 3, 2013

Hypothalamus:  (credit: iStockphoto)

Scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University have found that the hypothalamus of mice controls aging throughout the body.

Their discovery of a specific age-related signaling pathway opens up new strategies for combating diseases of old age and extending lifespan.

Background: the hypothalmus and inflammation

“Scientists have long wondered whether aging occurs independently in the body’s various tissues or if it… read more

Is this Elon Musk’s secret design for a high-speed train?

July 16, 2013

Hyperloop2

Elon Musk has been hinting at an idea he calls the Hyperloop — a ground-based transportation technology that would get people from Los Angeles to San Francisco in under half an hour, for less than 1/10 the cost of California’s $69 billion plan.

On Monday, Musk tweeted that he will publish an “alpha design” for the Hyperloop by Aug. 12. As Slateread more

Why some nations become wealthy and powerful, while others remain stuck in poverty

March 26, 2012

forumrome

Why do some nations, such as the United States, become wealthy and powerful, while others remain stuck in poverty? And why do some of those powers, from ancient Rome to the modern Soviet Union, expand and then collapse?

Politics makes the difference, say economists Daron Acemoglu of MIT and James Robinson of Harvard University in their new book, Why Nations Fail. Countries that have what they call “inclusive”… read more

Teleporting information achieved by TU Delft

A key step toward a "quantum internet"
June 2, 2014

(Credit: TU Delft)

Teleporting people through space, as in Star Trek, is impossible by the laws of physics, but researchers at TU Delft‘s Kavli Institute of Nanoscience have succeeded in teleporting information.

Using quantum entanglement, they transferred the information contained in a quantum bit in a diamond to a quantum bit in another diamond three meters away, without the information having traveled through the intervening space.

The… read more

Texas wind farms increase land surface temperature

May 2, 2012

Wind Farm

A Texas region containing four of the world’s largest wind farms showed an increase in land surface temperature over nine years that researchers have connected to local meteorological effects of the turbines.

The land surface temperature around the west-central Texas wind farms warmed at a rate of .72 degrees Celsius per decade during the study period relative to nearby regions without wind farms, an effect most likely… read more

Craig Venter’s team designs, builds first minimal synthetic bacterial cell

New record for the least number of genes needed for independent cell growth
March 28, 2016

A cluster of JCVI-syn3.0 cells, showing spherical structures of varying sizes (scale bar, 200 nm) (credit: Clyde A. Hutchison III et al./Science)

Just 473 genes were needed to create life in a new synthesized species of bacteria created by synthetic biologists from the J. Craig Venter Institute (JCVI) and Synthetic Genomics, Inc.

Knowing the minimum number of genes to create life would answer a fundamental question in biology.

This “minimal synthetic cell,” JCVI-syn3.0, was reported in an open-access paper published last week in the  journal Science. By… read more

Multi-material 3D printer creates realistic neurosurgical models for training

December 12, 2013

A perforator creates a burr hole in the model of a skull. The model, produced using a multimaterial 3D printer, is composed of a variety of materials that simulate the various consistencies and densities of human tissues encountered during neurosurgery. (Credit: American Association of Neurosurgeons)

Researchers* from Malaysia and the UK have used a new multi-material 3D printer to create realistic, low-cost model of the skull for use by students in practicing neurosurgical techniques.

The model uses a variety of materials that simulate the various consistencies and densities of human tissues encountered during neurosurgery.

Neurosurgery is a difficult discipline to master. Trainees may spend as many as 10 years after graduation from medical… read more

Groups concerned over arming of domestic drones

May 25, 2012

blog_armedrone

Chief Deputy Randy McDaniel of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office in Texas said his department is considering using rubber bullets and tear gas on its drone, CBS DC reports.

“Drone manufacturers are also considering offering police the option of arming these remote-controlled aircraft with (nonlethal for now) weapons like rubber bullets, Tasers, and tear gas,” the ACLU says on their website.

Catherine Crump, staff… read more

How to efficiently convert carbon dioxide from air to methanol fuel

A twofer: sustainable fuel source from greenhouse gas emissions
February 3, 2016

Turning-air-into-fuel-ft

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) Loker Hydrocarbon Research Institute have created fuel out of thin air — directly converting carbon dioxide from air into methanol at relatively low temperatures for the first time. While methanol can’t currently compete with oil, it will be there when we run out of oil, the researchers note.

The researchers bubbled air through an aqueous solution of pentaethylenehexamine (PEHA), adding… 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

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