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What it’ll take to go exascale

January 30, 2012

The K computer (credit: RIKEN)

The next generation of powerful supercomputers will be used to design high-efficiency engines tailored to burn biofuels, reveal the causes of supernova explosions, track the atomic workings of catalysts in real time, and study how persistent radiation damage might affect the metal casing surrounding nuclear weapons.

Those uses require supercomputers more powerful than any yet designed: These “exascale” computers would be capable of carrying out 1018 floating point operations per… read more

What is your dog thinking? Brain scans unleash canine secrets

May 7, 2012

Callie training in a scanner mock-up (credit: Carol Clark)

Emory Center for Neuropolicy researchers at Emory University have developed a new method to scan the brains of alert dogs and explore their minds. The technique uses functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI), the same tool that is unlocking secrets of the human brain.

“It was amazing to see the first brain images of a fully awake, unrestrained dog,” says Gregory Berns, director of the Emory Center for Neuropolicy and… read more

What Is Your Dangerous Idea?

January 4, 2006

The “third culture thinkers” in the Edge community of scientists and science-minded thinkers have written 117 original essays in response to the 2006 Edge Question: “What is your dangerous idea?”.

The answers include “The self is a conceptual chimera” (John Allen Paulos),”We are all virtual” (Clifford Pickover), and “The near-term inevitability of radical life extension and expansion” (Ray Kurzweil).

What is Traitorware?

December 28, 2010

Your digital camera may embed metadata into photographs with the camera’s serial number or your location. Your printer may be incorporating a secret code on every page it prints which could be used to identify the printer and potentially the person who used it. If Apple puts a particularly creepy patent it has recently applied for into use, you can look forward to a day when… read more

What is the optimal size of a power grid?

April 14, 2014

Areas affected by the blackout of 2003 (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

David Newman, a physicist at the University of Alaska, believes that smaller grids would reduce the likelihood of severe outages, such as the 2003 Northeast blackout that cut power to 50 million people in the United States and Canada for up to two days.

Newman and co-authors make their case in the journal Chaos.

North America has three power grids that transmit electricity from hundreds of… read more

What is the ‘Higgs Boson’ and why is it important?

Articles and videos for non-physicists
July 5, 2012

collider

What It Means to Find ‘a Higgs’ — Scientific American 

Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to Universe — The New York Times

Howard Bloom, author of the forthcoming book, The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos Createscomments: “The god particle, the Higgs boson, is a bit of a red herring. It’s an… read more

What is the Brain Activity Map? A Q&A with George Church

March 4, 2013

400px-George_Church_at_TED

Last summer, six scientists proposed a project they compared in scope and ambition to the Human Genome Project: to map the activity of the human brain. In February, news media reported that the Obama administration plans to move forward with that effort, known as the Brain Activity Map.

One of those six scientists was George Church, professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School… read more

What is the best shape for cancer-fighting nanoparticles?

June 5, 2012

decuzzi_nanoparticles

Scientists at The Methodist Hospital Research Institute (TMHRI) and six other institutions suggest that nanoparticles ought to be disc-shaped, not spherical or rod-shaped, when targeting cancers at or near blood vessels.

“The vast majority — maybe 99 percent — of the work being done right now is using nanoparticles that are spherical,” said TMHRI biomedical engineer Paolo Decuzzi, Ph.D., principal investigator for both projects. “But evidence… read more

What Is I.B.M.’s Watson?

June 17, 2010

IBM scientists have been developing a supercomputer called “Watson” that they expect will be the world’s most advanced “question answering” machine, able to understand a question posed in everyday natural language by accessing information in tens of millions of documents.

The producers of “Jeopardy!” have now agreed to pit Watson against some of the game’s best former players as early as this fall as a test of Watson’s capabilities… read more

What is DARPA’s Plan X?

October 19, 2012

Plan X (credit: DARPA)

On October 15 and 16, DARPA outlined its plans for Plan X to more than 350 software engineers, cyber researchers, and human-machine interface experts and solicited their feedback, in preparation for anticipated release in the next month of the program’s Broad Agency Announcement (BAA), to be posted to www.fbo.gov.

DARPA‘s Plan X program,. the first of its kind, will attempt to create revolutionary technologies for… read more

What if your laptop knew how you felt?

December 22, 2006

Computers can now analyze a face from video or a still image and infer almost as accurately as humans (or better) the emotion it displays.

Developed at MIT, “Mind Reader” uses input from a video camera to perform real-time analysis of facial expressions.

What if We Ran Universities Like Wikipedia?

October 19, 2010

David J. Staley has laid out the findings of a focus group he conducted asking educators what a college would look like if it ran like Wikipedia.

First, it wouldn’t have formal admissions, said Mr. Staley, director of the Harvey Goldberg Center for Excellence in Teaching at Ohio State University. People could enter and exit as they wished. It would consist of voluntary and self-organizing associations of teachers and… read more

What if there is only one universe?

June 8, 2009

Theories of cosmology based on a multiverse are flawed, says Lee Smolin, author of the bestselling science book The Trouble with Physics and a founding member and research physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

Smolin points out why a timeless multiverse means that our laws of physics are no longer determinable from experiment and how the connection between fundamental laws, which are unique and applicable universally from… read more

What if quantum entanglement worked on the macroscopic level?

July 26, 2013

entangled photons

Quantum entanglement works for photons, and even molecuiles, but what about larger objects?

University of Geneva (UNIGE) researchers managed to entangle crystals in 2011, but now they have entangled two optic fibers, populated by 500 photons.

To do this, the team first created an entanglement between two fiber optics on a microscopic level before moving it to the macroscopic level. The entangled state survived… read more

What if Humans were Designed to Last?

March 30, 2007

Experts across fields were challenged to imagine a new way to solve the problems of human aging by fiddling with physiology and tinker with the inner mechanics of life at the cellular or even molecular level.

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