science + technology news

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Penn researchers create first optical transistor comparable to an electronic transistor

February 2, 2018

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In an open-access paper published in Nature Communications, Ritesh Agarwal, a professor the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science, and his colleagues say that they have made significant progress in photonic (optical) computing by creating a prototype of a working optical transistor with properties similar to those of a conventional electronic transistor.*

Optical transistors, using… read more

The Princess Leia project: ‘volumetric’ 3D images that float in ‘thin air’

Making the 3D displays of science fiction real
January 31, 2018

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Inspired by the iconic Stars Wars scene with Princess Leia in distress, Brigham Young University engineers and physicists have created the “Princess Leia project” — a new technology for creating 3D “volumetric images” that float in the air and that you can walk all around and see from almost any angle.*

“Our group has a mission to take the 3D displays of science fiction and make them real,” said electrical… read more

MIT nanosystem delivers precise amounts of drugs directly to a tiny spot in the brain

... without interfering with the normal functions of the rest of the brain
January 28, 2018

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MIT researchers have developed a miniaturized system that can deliver tiny quantities of medicine to targeted brain regions as small as 1 cubic millimeter, with precise control over how much drug is given. The goal is to treat diseases that affect specific brain circuits without interfering with the normal functions of the rest of the brain.*

“We believe this tiny microfabricated device could have tremendous impact in understanding brain… read more

The Doomsday Clock is now two minutes before midnight

Scientists move clock ahead 30 seconds, closest to midnight since 1953
January 25, 2018

(credit: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

Citing growing nuclear risks and unchecked climate dangers, the Doomsday Clock — the symbolic point of annihilation — is now two minutes to midnight, the closest the Clock has been since 1953 at the height of the Cold War, according to a statement today (Jan. 25) by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

“In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of… read more

Ultra-thin ‘atomistor’ synapse-like memory storage device paves way for faster, smaller, smarter computer chips

January 24, 2018

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A team of electrical engineers at The University of Texas at Austin and scientists at Peking University has developed a one-atom-thick 2D “atomristor” memory storage device that may lead to faster, smaller, smarter computer chips.

The atomristor (atomic memristor) improves upon memristor (memory resistor) memory storage technology by using atomically thin nanomaterials (atomic sheets). (Combining memory and logic functions, similar to the synapses of biological… read more

An artificial synapse for future miniaturized portable ‘brain-on-a-chip’ devices

MIT engineers plan a fingernail-size chip that could replace a supercomputer
January 22, 2018

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MIT engineers have designed a new artificial synapse made from silicon germanium that can precisely control the strength of an electric current flowing across it.

In simulations, the researchers found that the chip and its synapses could be used to recognize samples of handwriting with 95 percent accuracy. The engineers say the new design, published today (Jan. 22) in the journal Nature Materials, is a major step toward building portable,… read more

Amazon’s store of the future opens

January 22, 2018

(credit: Amazon)

Amazon’s first Amazon Go store opened today in Seattle, automating most of the purchase, checkout, and payment steps associated with a retail transaction and replacing cash registers, cashiers, credit cards, self-checkout kiosks, RFID chips — and lines — with hundreds of small cameras, computer vision, deep-learning algorithms, and sensor fusion.

Just walk in (as long as you have the Amazon Go app and an Amazon.com account), scan a QR… read more

Remote-controlled DNA nanorobots could lead to the first nanorobotic production factory

"Five orders of magnitude [hundreds of thousands times] faster than previously reported DNA-driven robotic systems"
January 19, 2018

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By powering a self-assembling DNA nanorobotic arm with electric fields, German scientists have achieved precise nanoscale movement that is at least five orders of magnitude (hundreds of thousands times) faster than previously reported DNA-driven robotic systems, they suggest today (Jan. 19) in the journal Science.

DNA origami has emerged as a powerful tool to build precise structures. But now, “Kopperger et al. make an impressive stride in this direction… read more

Tracking a thought’s fleeting trip through the brain

Why people sometimes say things before they think
January 17, 2018

tracking the brain in real time

Repeating a word: as the brain receives (yellow), interpretes (red), and responds (blue) within a second, the prefrontal cortex (red) coordinates all areas of the brain involved. (video credit: Avgusta Shestyuk/UC Berkeley).

Recording the electrical activity of neurons directly from the surface of the brain, using electrocorticograhy (ECoG)*, neuroscientists were able to track the flow of thought across the brain in real time for the first time. They showed… read more

Deep neural network models score higher than humans in reading and comprehension test

"Update your AGI predictions"--- Prof. Roman Yampolskiy, PhD‏ @romanyam
January 15, 2018

(credit: Alibaba Group)

Microsoft and Alibaba have developed deep neural network models that scored higher than humans in a Stanford University reading and comprehension test, Stanford Question Answering Dataset (SQuAD).

Microsoft achieved 82.650 on the ExactMatch (EM) metric* on Jan. 3, and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. scored 82.440 on Jan. 5. The best human score so far is 82.304.

“SQuAD is a new reading… read more

Scientists map mammalian neural microcircuits in precise detail

January 12, 2018

The researchers tested the NEM technique with a specific microcircuit, the olfactory bulb glomerulus (which detects smells). They were able to identify detailed, long-range, complex anatomical features (scale bars = 100 micrometers). (credit: D. Schwartz et al./Nature Communications)

Neuroscientists at the Francis Crick Institute have developed a new technique to map electrical microcircuits* in the brain at far more detail than existing techniques*, which are limited to tiny sections of the brain (or remain confined to simpler model organisms, like zebrafish).

In the brain, groups of neurons that connect up in microcircuits help us process information about things we see, smell and taste. Knowing how… read more

How to grow functioning human muscles from stem cells

... and microscale robot exoskeleton muscles from graphene and glass
January 10, 2018

A stained cross section of the new muscle fibers. The red cells are muscle cells, the green areas are receptors for neuronal input, and the blue patches are cell nuclei. (credit: Duke University)

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have grown the first functioning human skeletal muscle from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). (Pluripotent stem cells are important in regenerative medicine because they can generate any type of cell in the body and can propagate indefinitely; the induced version can be generated from adult cells instead of embryos.)

The engineers say the new technique is promising for cellular therapies, drug… read more

DARPA-funded ‘unhackable’ computer could avoid future flaws like Spectre and Meltdown

UPDATE 1/9/2018: Microsoft Windows update "bricks" computers with AMD processor
January 8, 2018

(credit: University of Michigan)

A University of Michigan (U-M) team has announced plans to develop an “unhackable” computer, funded by a new $3.6 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

The goal of the project, called MORPHEUS, is to design computers that avoid the vulnerabilities of most current microprocessors, such as the Spectre and Meltdown flaws announced  last week.*

The $50 million DARPA System Security Integratedread more

Researchers hack cell biology to create complex shapes that form living tissue

The next step beyond 3D-printed tissues and organs
January 5, 2018

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Many of the complex folded and curved shapes that form human tissues can now be programmatically recreated with very simple instructions, UC San Francisco (UCSF) bioengineers report December 28 in the journal Developmental Cell.

The researchers used 3D cell-patterning to shape active mouse and human embryonic cells into thin layers of extracellular matrix fibers (a structural material produced by human cells that make up our connective… read more

Brainwave ‘mirroring’ neurotechnology improves post-traumatic stress symptoms

Brain "listens" to itself, re-balances its brainwave activity between hemispheres
January 3, 2018

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You are relaxing comfortably, eyes closed, with non-invasive sensors attached to your scalp that are picking up signals from various areas of your brain. The signals are converted by a computer to audio tones that you can hear on earbuds. Over several sessions, the different frequencies (pitches) of the tones associated with the two hemispheres of the brain create a mirror for your brainwave activity, helping your brain reset itselfread more

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