science + technology news

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

When sci-fi forgets the science

August 26, 2003

Every fan of science fiction film knows that for every genuinely good movie they see, they will have to endure an awful lot of rubbish.

A strange idiocy seems to have over-taken the makers of blockbusters such as The Matrix Reloaded, Star Wars: Attack of the Clones and others who are bolstering their creations with some decidedly dodgy science.

When Robots Rule the World

October 21, 2004

The use of robots around the home to mow lawns, vacuum floors and manage other chores will increase sevenfold by 2007 as more consumers snap up smart machines, the United Nations said.

By the end of 2007, some 4.1 million domestic robots will likely be in use, the study said.

There are now some 21,000 “service robots” in use, carrying out tasks such as milking cows, handling toxic… read more

When particles are so small that they seep right through skin

October 1, 2008

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found that nanoparticles uder 10 nanometers wide pass through the skin of a mouse, and could accumulate in the human lymph system, the liver, the nervous system, and in other areas of the body.

When Nanopants Attack

June 13, 2005

An Eddie Bauer store protest highlighted a growing movement aimed at probing the potential health risks of nanotechnology.

When machines learn like humans

Probabilistic programs pass the "visual Turing test"
December 10, 2015

Visual Turing-ft

A team of scientists has developed an algorithm that captures human learning abilities, enabling computers to recognize and draw simple visual concepts that are mostly indistinguishable from those created by humans.

The work by researchers at MIT, New York University, and the University of Toronto, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Science, marks a significant advance in the… read more

When machines do your job

Researcher Andrew McAfee says advances in computing and artificial intelligence could create a more unequal society
July 13, 2012

race_against_the_machine

Are American workers losing their jobs to machines?

That was the question posed by Race Against the Machine, an influential e-book published last October by MIT business school researchers Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee.

The pair looked at troubling U.S. employment numbers — which have declined since the recession of 2008-2009 even as economic output has risen — and concluded that computer technology was… read more

When machines breed

August 13, 2004

Evolvable hardware — machines that design themselves — can get the job done, even if humans have no idea how they do it.

Using evolutionary processes to optimize machine performance is nothing new. What is new, however, is the application of evolutionary processes in the hardware realm. Thanks to reconfigurable devices such as the field programmable gate array (FPGA) and increasing computational power, researchers are suddenly free to let… read more

When It Comes To Metal, Smaller Is Stronger: Now Scientists Know Why

January 3, 2008

Scientists have reported that a previously unobserved process known as “mechanical annealing” explains why structures made of metal get stronger as their dimensions shrink to the micrometer scale or less.

When it comes to intelligence, size isn’t everything

March 30, 2006

Intelligence has more to do with when and how the brain grows rather than its overall size, suggests a new study.

In the brightest children, the thickness of the prefrontal cortex — a brain region thought to be responsible for many facets of intelligence — increased rapidly through their pre-teen years before thinning out again after the age of 11. The pattern was the same in those of average… read more

When is the ideal time to study the early universe?

May 24, 2012

old_cosmology

New calculations by Harvard theorist Avi Loeb show that the ideal time to study the cosmos was more than 13 billion years ago, just about 500 million years after the Big Bang — the era when the first stars and galaxies began to form.

The farther into the future you go from that time, the more information you lose about the early universe, he says.

However, modern… read more

When humans transcend biology

July 11, 2006

A debate on transhumanism has been going on for the past few years, with naysayers and doomsayers on one side, optimistic futurists on the other, and too little in between.

When Human Rights Extend to Nonhumans

July 14, 2008

The environment committee of the Spanish Parliament last month voted to grant limited rights to our closest biological relatives, the great apes –chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas and orangutans.

The committee would bind Spain to the principles of the Great Ape Project, which points to apes’ human qualities, including the ability to feel fear and happiness, create tools, use languages, remember the past and plan the future.

When fluid dynamics mimic quantum mechanics

MIT researchers offer a radical new perspective on wave-particle duality
July 30, 2013

MIT researchers, in collaboration with physicist Yves Couder at the Université Paris Diderot and his colleagues, report that they have produced the fluidic analogue of a classic quantum experiment, in which electrons are confined to a circular “corral” by a ring of ions.

In the new experiments, reported in the latest issue of the journal Physical Review E (PRE), bouncing drops of fluid mimicked the… read more

When fantasy is just too close for comfort

June 13, 2007

There is a reason why “realistic” animation in films creeps us out. And creators are growing wary of the trap.

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