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We’re underestimating the risk of human extinction

March 7, 2012

h-bomb

Unthinkable as it may be, humanity, every last person, could someday be wiped from the face of the Earth. We have learned to worry about asteroids and supervolcanoes, but the more-likely scenario, according to Nick Bostrom, a professor of philosophy at Oxford, is that we humans will destroy ourselves.

Most worrying to Bostrom is the subset of existential risks that arise from human technology, a subset that he expects… read more

We’re In Danger of Losing Our Memories

January 27, 2009

As the Internet evolves and technologies become obsolete, and with the continual loss of online records (like what happened at whitehouse.gov on Jan. 20, when all traces of George W. Bush disappeared), we are in danger of creating a black hole for future historians and writers unless urgent action is taken.

As chief executive of the British Library, it’s Lynne Brindley’s job to ensure that this does not extend… read more

‘We’re building a brain!’

April 5, 2002

Lobal Technologies of London is building a natural language processing system called LAD (Language Acquisition Device) that understands sentences word by word and builds its replies word-by-word, rather than just reading a script.The system is based on a model of the human brain, with emulators for the five brain areas that are most important for language processing, built using neural network technology

Lobal’s roadmap for developing LAD is based… read more

We’re all living longer, but longevity increases not benefitting everybody

December 21, 2012

Life_expectancy

Global lifespans have risen dramatically in the past 40 years, but the increased life expectancy is not benefitting body equally, say University of Toronto researchers. In particular, adult males from low- and middle-income countries are losing ground.

People are living longer on average than they were in 1970, and those extra years of life are being achieved at lower cost, the researchers, led by U of… read more

WellPoint and IBM to use Watson to improve health care

September 14, 2011

IBMWatson

IBM and health insurer WellPoint have teamed up to develop and launch Watson-based solutions to help improve patient care through the delivery of up-to-date, evidence-based health care. They plan to start in early 2012, working with select physician groups in clinical pilots.

For physicians, incorporating hundreds of thousands of articles into practice and applying them to patient… read more

Wellcome Trust joins ‘academic spring’ to open up science

April 11, 2012

800px-Scientific_journals

One of the world’s largest funders of science  the Wellcome Trust, the largest non-governmental funder of medical research after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is now behind a growing campaign to break the stranglehold of academic journals and allow all research papers to be shared online.

Nearly 9,000 researchers have already signed up to a… read more

Well-connected hemispheres of Einstein’s brain may have contributed to his brilliance

October 6, 2013

Albert Einstein's corpus callosum. Color codes indicate the varying thicknesses of subdivisions of the corpus callosum (credit: Men et al./Brain)

The left and right hemispheres of Albert Einstein’s brain were unusually well connected to each other and this may have contributed to his brilliance, according to a new study [1], the first to detail Einstein’s corpus callosum.

The corpus callosum is the brain’s largest bundle of fibers that connects the two cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication.

The study was published in the journal Brain. Lead… read more

Well-connected brains make you smarter in older age

May 24, 2012

Core subnetwork (PNAS)

Older people with robust brain “wiring” — nerve fibers that connect different, distant brain areas — can process information quickly and that this makes them generally smarter, University of Edinburgh research suggests.

According to the findings, joining distant parts of the brain together with better wiring improves mental performance, suggesting that intelligence is not found in a single part of the brain.

However a loss of condition… read more

Welded nanowires may lead to low-cost touch-screens, video displays, LEDs, and thin-film solar cells

February 7, 2012

A titled, cross-sectional scanning electron microscope image of plasmonically welded nanowires of silver (credit: Mark Brongersma | Stanford)

Stanford University engineers have demonstrated a promising new nanowire welding technique to create electrically conductive meshes made of metal nanowires.

The research promises to lead to exceptional electrical throughput, low cost and easy processing for new generations of touch-screens, video displays, light-emitting diodes, and thin-film solar cells.

In processing, these delicate meshes must be heated or pressed to unite the crisscross pattern of nanowires that form the mesh,… read more

Welcome to the programmable world

May 15, 2013

SmartThings-Ringed-FullColor

Tiny, intelligent things all around us, coordinating their activities. There are few more appropriate guides to this impending future than Alex Hawkinson, whose DC-based startup, SmartThings, has built what’s arguably the most advanced hub to tie connected objects together, Wired reports.

At his house, more than 200 objects, from the garage door to the coffeemaker to his daughter’s trampoline, are all connected to his SmartThings system.… read more

Welcome to the malware-industrial complex

February 13, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

The U.S. government is developing new computer weapons and driving a black market in “zero-day” bugs. The result could be a more dangerous Web for everyone, says MIT Technology Review.

A freshly discovered weakness in a popular piece of software, known in the trade as a “zero-day” vulnerability, can be cashed in for much more than a reputation boost and some free drinks at the bar. Information about such flaws can command prices in… read more

Welcome to the library. Say goodbye to the books.

September 7, 2009

Electronic readers made by Amazon.com and Sony and Internet-connected laptops are replacing books at the Cushing Academy prep school in New England.

Welcome to the genomic revolution

September 27, 2011

Richard Resnick: Welcome to the genomic revolution

In this talk from TEDxBoston, GenomeQuest CEO Richard Resnick shows how cheap and fast genome sequencing is about to turn health care (and insurance, and politics) upside down.

“The price to sequence a base has fallen 100 million times,” Resnick said. “The world-wide capacity to sequence human genomes is something between 50,000 and 100,000 genomes this year, and this is expected to double, triple or maybe quadruple… read more

Welcome To The Blogosphere: Population 27.2 Million And Growing

February 7, 2006

A new blog is created every second and the phenomenon has grown 60 times larger than it was three years ago, according to Dave Sifry at Technorati.

In “State of the Blogosphere,” published most recently on Monday, Sifry said there are about 27.2 million blogs and 75,000 new ones created each day. At that rate, the blogosphere doubles about every 5.5 months, with about 1.2 million new posts daily,… read more

Welcome to the biobank

March 30, 2012

ukbiobank

Anyone interested in combing through 20 terabytes of data on more than half a million aging Brits will have their chance beginning today, when the UK Biobank throws open its databanks to researchers, Nature News Blog reports.

The bank should help scientists to identify the genetic and environmental causes of diabetes, obesity, cancer, depression and many other diseases, based on testing of more than 500,000 participants aged… read more

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