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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.

When does your baby become conscious?

April 19, 2013


New research shows that babies display glimmers of consciousness and memory as early as 5 months old, Science Now reports.

Studies on adults show a particular pattern of brain activity: When your senses detect something, such as a moving object, the vision center of your brain activates, even if the object goes by too fast for you to notice. But if the object remains in your visual… read more

When death becomes optional

March 15, 2012

The year is 2032. You have just celebrated your 80th birthday and you have some tough decisions ahead. You can either keep repairing your current body or move into a new one.

The growing of “blank” bodies has become all the rage, and by using your own genetic material, body farmers can even recreate your own face at age 20.

In just 20 years, this is anread more

When Computers Attack

June 25, 2007

Robert Elder, commander of the Air Force Cyberspace Command, said his newly formed command, which defends military data, communications and control networks, is learning how to disable an opponent’s computer networks and crash its databases.

When Cash Is Only Skin Deep

December 1, 2003

Applied Digital Solutions has announced plans to develop a service that would allow consumers to pay for merchandise using microchips implanted under their skin. Micro-chipped customers would scan themselves using special readers.

When breakthroughs begin at home

January 17, 2012

diybio-revolution-hand_400x400px, an online hub for sharing ideas on DIYbio (do-it-yourself biology) has grown to more than 2,000 members since its inception.

One of the movement’s rallying points is Genspace, a nonprofit laboratory in Brooklyn that is open to members of the public, regardless of scientific background. Similar labs have sprouted in Boston and San Francisco.

Genspace has roughly a dozen members, and each pays $100 a… read more

When a light goes on during thought processes

October 2, 2008
Neuron action potentials can be recorded optically using a genetic calcium indicator that colors the cells in the brain of a living mouse. (Max Planck Institute for Medical Research)

Scientists at Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg have succeeded in optically detecting individual action potentials in the brains of living animals.

They introduced fluorescent indicator proteins into the brain cells of mice via viral gene vectors. The light indicates which neurons are communicating with each other.

When a Camcorder Becomes a Life Partner

November 8, 2010

Looxcie wearable camcorder (Looxcie)

Small, lightweight, hands-free cameras — worn on a headband, for example, or tucked over an ear — will record life’s memorable moments as they unfold.

The Looxcie ($199), a small wearable camcorder introduced recently, loops over the ear. The camera is built into a Bluetooth headset that streams 480 x 320 pixel digital images at 15 frames per second wirelessly to Android phones that use a free Looxcie app.… read more

Wheelchair moves at the speed of thought

July 24, 2003

A system that lets severely disabled people steer a wheelchair using only their thoughts is under development.

Using a skullcap with electrodes, it noninvasively monitors the electrical activity of the wearer’s brain. A neural network can be trained to recognize different mental states, currently: “turn left,” “turn right” and “move forward.”

Wheelchair Makes the Most of Brain Control

September 13, 2010


A robotic wheelchair that combines brain control via EEG with artificial intelligence to make it easier for people to maneuver it using only their thoughts has been developed by researchers at the Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne.

The approach, known as “shared control,” could help paralyzed people gain new mobility by turning crude brain signals into more complicated commands.

Patients don’t need to continuously instruct the… read more

What’s Missing From Our Cognitive Toolkit’?

January 20, 2011

(National Institute of Mental Health)

There’s a rich discussion of aspects of this question (proposed by Steven Pinker) on What scientific concept would improve everybody’s cognitive toolkit?

What’s wrong with the electric grid?

October 10, 2003

Experts widely agree that failures of the power-transmission system such as the recent Northeast United States blackout are a nearly unavoidable product of a collision between the physics of the system and the economic rules that now regulate it.

To avoid future incidents, the nation must either physically transform the system to accommodate the new rules, or change the rules to better mesh with the power grid’s physical behavior.

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