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Teaching household robots to manipulate objects more efficiently

New algorithms could help household robots work around their physical shortcomings
February 26, 2013

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At this year’s IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, students in the Learning and Intelligent Systems Group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory will present a pair of papers showing how household robots could use a little lateral thinking to compensate for their physical shortcomings.

Many commercial robotic arms perform what roboticists call “pick and place” tasks: The arm picks… read more

Exercise reorganizes the brain to reduce stress and anxiety

July 5, 2013

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Physical activity reorganizes the brain so that its response to stress is reduced and anxiety is less likely to interfere with normal brain function, according to a Princeton University research team.

The researchers report in the Journal of Neuroscience that when mice allowed to exercise regularly experienced a stressor — exposure to cold water — their brains exhibited a spike in the activity of neurons… read more

Math ability requires hemisphere crosstalk in the brain

Could special training in improving hemispheric cross-communication improve math abilities? What kinds of devices or exercises would be most effective?
August 31, 2012

Numerical and Arthimetic Tasks

The strength of communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain predicts performance on basic arithmetic problems, a new study by researchers at UT Dallas’ Center for Vital Longevity, Duke University, and the University of Michigan has found.

The findings shed light on the neural basis of human math abilities and suggest a possible route to aiding those who suffer from dyscalculia — an… read more

Commercial asteroid hunters announce plans for new robotic exploration fleet

World’s first fleet of asteroid-hunting spacecraft announced by Deep Space Industries
January 22, 2013

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Deep Space Industries (DSI) announced Monday night that it will send a fleet of asteroid-prospecting spacecraft out into the solar system to hunt for resources to accelerate space development to benefit Earth.

These “FireFly” spacecraft utilize low-cost cubesat components and get discounted delivery to space by ride-sharing on the launch of larger communications satellites.

“This is the first commercial campaign to explore the small… read more

Thiel tells Schmidt: ‘Google is out of ideas’

July 18, 2012

Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and investor Peter Thiel took aim at each other in a recent debate, CNET reports.

Schmidt said technology and access to information has increased productivity and quality of life worldwide. Thiel thanked Schmidt for “doing a fantastic job” as “minister of propaganda” for Google. The tech sector has made remarkable strides in the areas of computers and software, he said, but has seen a “catastrophic” failure in other… read more

A world record for highest-surface-area materials

Greatly expands storage density for natural gas (for vehicles), light harvesting, and drug delivery
September 13, 2012

NU-110

Northwestern University researchers have broken a world record by creating two new synthetic materials with the greatest amount of surface areas reported to date.

Named NU-109 and NU-110, the materials belong to a class of crystalline nanostructure known as metal-organic frameworks (MOFs) that are promising vessels for natural-gas and hydrogen storage for vehicles, and for catalysts, chemical sensing, light harvesting, drug delivery, and other uses requiring a large… read more

Chinese project probes the genetics of genius

May 15, 2013

(Credit: iStock)

Researchers at BGI (formerly the Beijing Genomics Institute) in Shenzhen, China, the largest gene-sequencing facility in the world, are searching for the quirks of DNA that may contribute to genius in an ethically controversial study.

They are scouring the genomes of 1,600 U.S. adolescents who signed up for the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY) in the 1970s, Nature News reports.

Some geneticists say that the… read more

A radical new holistic view of health based on cooperation and disease based on competition

September 16, 2013

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Researchers at The Mount Sinai Medical Center have developed a radical holistic view of health — seeing it as a cooperative state among cells, while they see disease as result of cells at war that fight with each other for domination.

Their unique approach is backed by experimental evidence. The researchers show a network of genes in cells, which includes the powerful tumor suppressor p53,… read more

A paper-thin flexible tablet computer

January 9, 2013

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A flexible paper computer developed at Queen’s University in collaboration with Plastic Logic and Intel Labs could one day revolutionize the way people work with tablets and computers.

The PaperTab tablet looks and feels just like a sheet of paper. However, it is fully interactive with a flexible, high-resolution 10.7” plastic display developed by Plastic Logic, a flexible touchscreen, and powered by the second generation… read more

Why Earth remains capable of supporting life despite CO2 greenhouse gas emissions

It's all in the rocks
March 23, 2014

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“Fresh” rock — nature’s atmospheric carbon dioxide regulator — explains why the Earth has become neither sweltering like Venus nor frigid like Mars. So say researchers from USC and Nanjing University in China.

Scientists have long known that “fresh” rock pushed to the surface via mountain formation effectively acts as a kind of sponge, soaking up the greenhouse gas CO2.

Left unchecked, however, that process would… read more

FDA OK’s ingestible sensor chip

Chip tracks adherence to oral medications, can report to caregiver
July 31, 2012

Injestible chip

Proteus Digital Health, Inc. announced Monday that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared its ingestible sensor for marketing as a medical device.

The ingestible sensor (formally referred to as the Ingestion Event Marker or IEM) is part of the Proteus digital health feedback system, an integrated, end-to-end personal health management system designed to help improve patients’ health habits and connections to caregivers.… read more

An alternative to the Turing test: ‘Winograd Schema Challenge’ annual competition announced

Invites researchers and students to design computer programs that simulate human intelligence
July 28, 2014

(credit: iStock)

Nuance Communications, Inc. announced today an annual competition to develop programs that can solve the Winograd Schema Challenge, an alternative to the Turing test that provides a more accurate measure of genuine machine intelligence, according to its developer, Hector Levesque, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, and winner of the 2013 IJCAI Award for Research Excellence.

Nuance is sponsoring the yearly… read more

Human muscle, regrown on animal scaffolding

September 17, 2012

Sergeant Strang has grown new leg muscle thanks to a thin sheet of material from a pig, The New York Times reports.

The material, called extracellular matrix, is the natural scaffolding that underlies all tissues and organs, in people as well as animals. It is produced by cells, and for years scientists thought that its main role was to hold them in their proper position.

But… read more

How terahertz laser scanners will spy on you in airports

July 12, 2012

Genia

Genia Photonics has developed a programmable picosecond laser that is capable of spotting trace amounts of a variety of substances, including explosives, chemical agents, and hazardous biological substances at up to 50 meters.

It’s basically a spectrometer for radiation in the terahertz band. The beam used by Genia’s spectrometer is capable of penetrating most materials including wood, leather, cloth, ceramics, plastic, and paper, and can essentially… read more

Mapping brain circuits for specific functions

New way to image brain-cell activity could shed light on psychiatric disorders
October 19, 2012

MIT neuroscientists used calcium imaging to label these pyramidal cells in the brain (credit: Qian Chen/MIT)

A team led by MIT neuroscientists has developed a way to monitor how brain cells coordinate with each other to control specific behaviors, such as initiating movement or detecting an odor.

The researchers’ new imaging technique, based on the detection of calcium ions in neurons, could help them map the brain circuits that perform such functions.

It could also provide new insights into the… read more

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