science + technology news

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Why futurist Ray Kurzweil isn’t worried about technology stealing your job — Fortune

September 27, 2017

Ray Kurzweil and Stevie Wonder ft

Last week, Fortune magazine asked Ray Kurzweil to comment on some often-expressed questions about the future.

Does AI pose an existential threat to humanity?

Kurzweil sees the future as nuanced, notes writer Michal Lev-Ram. “A lot of people think things are getting worse, partly because that’s actually an evolutionary adaptation,” Kurzweil said. “It’s very important for your survival to be sensitive to bad news. …… read more

Human vs. deep-neural-network performance in object recognition

... and how they can teach each other
September 27, 2017

bathroom

Before you read this: look for toothbrushes in the photo above.

Did you notice the huge toothbrush on the left? Probably not. That’s because when humans search through scenes for a particular object, we often miss objects whose size is inconsistent with the rest of the scene, according to scientists in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at UC Santa Barbara.

The scientists are investigating this phenomenon… read more

Neuroscientists restore vegetative-state patient’s consciousness with vagus nerve stimulation

September 25, 2017

pre vs post VNS ft

A 35-year-old man who had been in a vegetative state for 15 years after a car accident has shown signs of consciousness after neurosurgeons in France implanted a vagus nerve stimulator into his chest — challenging the general belief that disorders of consciousness that persist for longer than 12 months are irreversible.

In a 2007 Weill Cornell Medical College study reported in Nature, neurologists found temporary improvements in… read more

Artificial ‘skin’ gives robotic hand a sense of touch

September 22, 2017

robotic hand with touch sensors ft

A team of researchers from the University of Houston has reported a development in stretchable electronics that can serve as an artificial skin, allowing a robotic hand to sense the difference between hot and cold, and also offering advantages for a wide range of biomedical devices.

The work, reported in the open-access journal Science Advances, describes a new mechanism for producing stretchable electronics, a process that relies… read more

A battery-free origami robot powered and controlled by external magnetic fields

September 22, 2017

Wirelessly powered and controlled magnetic folding robot arm can grasp and bend (credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

Harvard University researchers have created a battery-free, folding robot “arm” with multiple “joints,” gripper “hand,” and actuator “muscles” — all powered and controlled wirelessly by an external resonant magnetic field.

The design is inspired by the traditional Japanese art of origami (used to transform a simple sheet of paper into complex, three-dimensional shapes through a specific pattern of folds, creases, and crimps). The prototype device is capable of complex,… read more

Scientists remove one of the final barriers to making lifelike robots

3D-printable, synthetic soft muscle can mimic natural biological systems, lifting 1000 times its own weight
September 20, 2017

(L) The electrically actuated muscle with thin resistive wire in a rest position; (R) The muscle is expanded using low power characteristics (8V). (credit: Aslan Miriyev/Columbia Engineering)

Researchers at the Columbia Engineering Creative Machines lab have developed a 3D-printable, synthetic soft muscle that can mimic natural biological systems, lifting 1000 times its own weight. The artificial muscle is three times stronger than natural muscle and can push, pull, bend, twist, and lift weight — no external devices required.

Existing soft-actuator technologies are typically based on bulky pneumatic or hydraulic inflation of elastomer… read more

New system allows near-zero-power sensors to communicate data over long distances

Could make low-cost remote medical monitoring and the "internet of things" practical
September 18, 2017

A flexible epidermal medical-data patch prototype successfully transmitted information at up to 37500 bits per second across a 3,300-square-feet atrium. (credit: Dennis Wise/University of Washington)

University of Washington (UW) researchers have developed a low-cost, long-range data-communication system that could make it possible for medical sensors or billions of low-cost “internet of things” objects to connect via radio signals at long distances (up to 2.8 kilometers) and with 1000 times lower required power (9.25 microwatts in an experiment) compared to existing technologies.

“People have been talking about embedding connectivity into everyday objects … for… read more

Walking DNA nanorobot could deliver a drug to a precise location in your body

Future uses could include creating programmable drugs or delivering them when a specific signal is received in the bloodstream or cells
September 15, 2017

DNA nanorobot cargo carrier (credit: Ella Maru Studio)

Caltech scientists have developed a “cargo sorting” DNA nanorobot programmed to autonomously “walk” around a surface, pick up certain molecules, and drop them off in designated locations.

The research is described in a paper in the Friday, September 15, 2017 issue of Science.

The major advance in this study is “their methodology for designing simple DNA devices that work in parallel to solve nontrivial tasks,”… read more

Miniature MRI simulator chip could help diagnose and treat diseases in the body at sub-millimeter precision

September 13, 2017

Illustration of an ATOMS microchip localized within the gastrointestinal tract. The chip, which works on principles similar to those used in MRI machines, is embodied with the properties of nuclear spin. (credit: Ella Marushchenko for Caltech)

Caltech researchers have developed a “Fantastic Voyage” style prototype microchip that could one day be used in “smart pills” to diagnose and treat diseases when inserted into the human body.

Called ATOMS (addressable transmitters operated as magnetic spins), the microchips could one day monitor a patient’s gastrointestinal tract, blood, or brain, measuring factors that indicate a patient’s health — such as pH, temperature, pressure, and sugar concentrations — with… read more

‘Fog computing’ could improve communications during natural disasters

September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma at peak intensity near the U.S. Virgin Islands on September 6, 2017 (credit: NOAA)

Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a system that uses edge computing (also known as fog computing) to deal with the loss of internet access in natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, and floods.

The idea is to create an ad hoc decentralized network that uses computing power built into mobile phones, routers, and other hardware to provide actionable data… read more

These fast, low-cost medical technologies will replace ultrasound and X-rays for specific uses

September 8, 2017

Smartphone heart diagnosis (credit: Caltech)

A radical software invention by three Caltech engineers promises to allow your smartphone camera* to provide detailed information about a critical measure of your heart’s health: the “left ventricular ejection fraction” (LVEF) — the amount of blood in the heart that is pumped out to the blood system with each beat. This figure is used by physicians as a base for diagnostic and therapeutic decisions.

You’ll simply hold… read more

A cooling system that works without electricity

Electricity needed to cool a Las Vegas building reduced by 21 percent in a model
September 6, 2017

A fluid-cooling panel designed by Shanhui Fan, professor of electrical engineering at Stanford, and former research associates Aaswath Raman and Eli Goldstein being tested on the roof of the Packard Electrical Engineering Building. This is an updated version of the panels used in the research published in Nature Energy. (credit: Aaswath Raman)

Stanford University scientists have developed a high-tech mirror-like optical surface that uses “radiative sky cooling” to dramatically lower the energy required for air conditioning and refrigeration.

The system cools water (flowing through pipes connected to an air-conditioning system) without requiring electricity by radiating excess heat from water into cold space. Panels covered in specialized optical surfaces reflect about 97 percent of the sunlight while simultaneously emitting the surface’s thermal… read more

Leading AI country will be ‘ruler of the world,’ says Putin

"When one party’s drones are destroyed by drones of another, it will have no other choice but to surrender.”
September 3, 2017

Autonomous drone swarms (credit: U.S. Dept. of Defense)

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday (Sept. 1, 2017) that the country that becomes the leader in developing artificial intelligence will be “the ruler of the world,” reports the Associated Press.

AI development “raises colossal opportunities and threats that are difficult to predict now,” Putin said in a lecture to students, warning that “it would be strongly undesirable if someone wins a monopolist position.”

Future wars will be… read more

A single-molecule room-temperature transistor made from 14 atoms

September 1, 2017

Columbia researchers wired a single molecular cluster to gold electrodes to show that it exhibits a quantized and controllable flow of charge at room temperature. (credit: Bonnie Choi/Columbia University)

Columbia Engineering researchers have taken a key step toward atomically precise, reproducible transistors made from single molecules and operating at room temperature — a major goal in the field of molecular electronics.

The team created a two-terminal transistor with a diameter of about 0.5 nanometers and core consisting of just 14 atoms. The device can reliably switch from insulator to conductor when charge is added or removed, one electron at a time… read more

Astronomers detect 15 high-frequency ‘fast radio bursts’ from distant galaxy

Were these powerful bursts used by an extraterrestrial civilization to power exploratory spacecraft?
August 30, 2017

Greenbank Radio Telescope (credit: Geremia/CC)

Using the Green Bank radio telescope, astronomers at Breakthrough Listen, a $100 million initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, have detected 15 brief but powerful “fast radio bursts” (FRBs). These microwave radio pulses are from a mysterious source known as FRB 121102* in a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years from Earth, transmitting at record high frequencies (4 to 8 GHz),… read more

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