science + technology news

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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

Shapes of Living Tissue ft

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

HIRREM process infographic ft

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

Will artificial intelligence become conscious?

December 22, 2017

(Credit: EPFL/Blue Brain Project)

By Subhash Kak, Regents Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Oklahoma State University

Forget about today’s modest incremental advances in artificial intelligence, such as the increasing abilities of cars to drive themselves. Waiting in the wings might be a groundbreaking development: a machine that is aware of itself and its surroundings, and that could take in and process massive amounts of data in real time. It… read more

A breakthrough low-light image sensor for photography, life sciences, security

DARPA-sponsored research project allows for capturing single photons, replaces time exposure
December 20, 2017

Quanta Image Sensor ft

Engineers from Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering have created a radical new imaging technology called “Quanta Image Sensor” (QIS) that may revolutionize a wide variety of imaging applications that require high quality at low light.

These include security, photography, cinematography, and medical and life sciences research.

Low-light photography (at night with only moonlight, for example) currently requires photographers to use time exposure (keeping the shutter open… read more

How to program DNA like we do computers

Researchers program DNA molecules to follow specific instructions to create sophisticated molecular machines for medical and research uses
December 18, 2017

This is a chemical oscillator. (credit: Image courtesy of Ella Maru Studio and Cody Geary)

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have programmed DNA molecules to follow specific instructions to create sophisticated molecular machines that could be capable of communication, signal processing, problem-solving, decision-making, and control of motion in living cells — the kind of computation previously only possible with electronic circuits.

Future applications may include health care, advanced materials, and nanotechnology.

As a demonstration, the researchers constructed a… read more

A new low-cost, simple way to measure medical vital signs with radio waves

December 15, 2017

A radio frequency identification tag (credit: Cornell)

Replacing devices based on 19th-century technology* and still in use, Cornell University engineers have developed a simple method for gathering blood pressure, heart rate, and breath rate from multiple patients simultaneously. It uses low-power radio-frequency signals and low-cost microchip radio-frequency identification (RFID) “tags” — similar to the ubiquitous anti-theft tags used in department stores.

The RFID tags measure internal body motion, such as a heart as it beats… read more

Video games and piano lessons improve cognitive functions in seniors, researchers find

December 13, 2017

(credit: Nintendo)

For seniors, playing 3D-platform games like Super Mario 64 or taking piano lessons can stave off mild cognitive impairment and perhaps even prevent Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study by Université de Montréal psychology professors.

In the studies, 33 people ages 55 to 75 were instructed to play Super Mario 64 for 30 minutes a day, five days a week for a period of… read more

AlphaZero’s ‘alien’ superhuman-level program masters chess in 24 hours with no domain knowledge

Like a robot building a Ferrari from thousands of metal bits and parts, but no knowledge of a combustion engine
December 11, 2017

AlphaZero vs. Stockfish chess program | Round 1 (credit:

Demis Hassabis, the founder and CEO of DeepMind, announced at the Neural Information Processing Systems conference (NIPS 2017) last week that DeepMind’s new AlphaZero program achieved a superhuman level of play in chess within 24 hours.

The program started from random play, given no domain knowledge except the game rules, according to an arXiv paper by DeepMind researchers published Dec. 5.

“It doesn’t play like… read more

3D-printing biocompatible living bacteria

Applications include skin transplants and nanofilters that break down toxic substances
December 8, 2017

Printing Bacteria ft

Researchers at ETH Zurich university have developed a technique for 3D-printing biocompatible living bacteria for the first time — making it possible to produce produce high-purity cellulose for biomedical applications and nanofilters that can break down toxic substances (in drinking water, for example) or for use in disastrous oil spills, for example.

The technique, called “Flink” (“functional living ink”) allows for printing mini biochemical factories with properties… read more

New technology allows robots to visualize their own future

December 6, 2017

robot imagines future

UC Berkeley | Vestri the robot imagines how to perform tasks

UC Berkeley researchers have developed a robotic learning technology that enables robots to imagine the future of their actions so they can figure out how to manipulate objects they have never encountered before. It could help self-driving cars anticipate future events on the road and produce more intelligent robotic assistants in homes.

The initial prototype focuses on… read more

Why (most) future robots won’t look like robots

Plus: soft robots get superpowers (equivalent to a duck lifting a car)
December 4, 2017

Material-enabled robotics. A future robot’s body may combine soft actuators and stiff structure, with distributed computation throughout. (credit: Nikolaus Correll/University of Colorado)

Future robots won’t be limited to humanoid form (like Boston Robotics’ formidable backflipping Atlas). They’ll be invisibly embedded everywhere in common objects.

Such as a shoe that can intelligently support your gait, change stiffness as you’re running or walking, and adapt to different surfaces — or even help you do backflips.

That’s the vision of researchers at Oregon State University, the University of Colorado, Yale University, and… read more

Using light instead of electrons promises faster, smaller, more-efficient computers and smartphones

December 1, 2017

Trapped light (credit: Imperial College London)

By forcing light to go through a smaller gap than ever before, a research team at Imperial College London has taken a step toward computers based on light instead of electrons.

Light would be preferable for computing because it can carry much-higher-density information, it’s much faster, and more efficient (generates little to no heat). But light beams don’t easily interact with one other. So information on high-speed… read more

New nanomaterial, quantum encryption system could be ultimate defenses against hackers

November 29, 2017

Physically unclonable cryptographic primitive ft

Recent advances in quantum computers may soon give hackers access to machines powerful enough to crack even the toughest of standard internet security codes. With these codes broken, all of our online data — from medical records to bank transactions — could be vulnerable to attack.

Now, a new low-cost nanomaterial developed by New York University Tandon School of Engineering researchers can be tuned to act as… read more

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