science + technology news

Can computers understand art?

Another “only humans can…” belief has just been shattered
September 27, 2012

figure_artists

Computer scientists Computer scientists Lior Shamir and Jane Tarakhovsky of Lawrence Technological University in Michigan have developed a program that analyzes paintings in a manner similar to how expert art historians perform their analysis, and conducted an  experiment that showed that machines can outperform untrained humans in the analysis of fine art.

In the experiment, the researchers used approximately 1, 000 paintings of 34 well-known artists, and let the computer… read more

Recording and replaying human touch: the next user-interface revolution?

September 9, 2013

haptic output

University of California, San Diego researchers have demonstrated a new user interface technology: electronic recording and replay of human touch.

“Touch was largely bypassed by the digital revolution, except for touch-screen displays, because it seemed too difficult to replicate what analog haptic [touch] devices can produce,” said Deli Wang, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) in UC San Diego’s… read more

Where is imagination located in the human brain?

September 18, 2013

Schlegel-mental-workspace-image-high-res.jpg

Imagination lies in a widespread neural network — the brain’s “mental workspace” — that consciously manipulates images, symbols, ideas and theories and gives humans the laser-like mental focus needed to solve complex problems and come up with new ideas, Dartmouth researchers conclude in a new study.

“Our findings move us closer to understanding how the organization of our brains sets us apart from other species and provides… read more

The future of medicine is now

December 31, 2012

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Six medical innovations are poised to transform the way we fight disease, The Wall Street Journal reports.

  • Surgeons at Boston Children’s Hospital have developed a way to help children born with half a heart to essentially grow a whole one — by marshaling the body’s natural capacity to heal and develop.
  • Oxford Nanopore Technologies has unveiled the first of a generation of tiny DNA sequencing devices that

read more

Ford predicts self-driving, traffic-reducing cars by 2017

July 4, 2012

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According to Ford, the self-driving car will be here within five years, using technologies available today.

The technology concept, known as Traffic Jam Assist, uses adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, and the sensors from its active park assist.

While driver safety is the primary benefit, the environment wins as well. If one in four cars has Traffic Jam Assist or similar self-driving technologies, travel times are reduced… read more

National Ignition Facility makes history with record 500 terawatt shot

July 18, 2012

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Fifteen years of work by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory‘s National Ignition Facility (NIF) team paid off on July 5 with a historic record-breaking laser shot. The NIF laser system of 192 beams delivered more than 500 trillion watts (terawatts or TW) of peak power and 1.85 megajoules (MJ) of ultraviolet laser light to its target.

Five hundred terawatts is 1,000 times more power than… read more

Single-molecule motor sits on a single-atom ball bearing

Can be run forward or in reverse, depending on where electrons are injected
December 31, 2012

The base of the device holds a Ru atom, and the five-armed device can rotate on top of it (credit:

Researchers have created a reversible rotor that sits atop a ball bearing — a single ruthenium atom, Ars Technica reports.

The base of the system involves a boron atom that coordinates three ringed structures that are chemically similar to the bases of DNA. Nitrogens at a corner of these ringed structures coordinate the ruthenium atom, placing it at the peak of a three-sided pyramid.

The ruthenium atom acts… read more

How to double the power of solar panels

October 16, 2012

Solar collectors: A micrograph shows silicon nanowires produced by Bandgap Engineering. They can help a solar cell absorb more light. (Credit: Bandgap Engineering)

In an attempt to further drop the cost of solar power, Bandgap Engineering has a long-term project to develop a nanowire-based solar cell that could eventually generate twice as much power as conventional solar cells, Technology Review reports.

Meanwhile the company is about to launch a simpler version of the technology, using silicon nanowires that can improve the performance and lower the cost of conventional silicon solar cells.… read more

Obama to unveil specifics of Brain Activity Map project

April 2, 2013

brain-rays

President Obama on Tuesday will announce specifics on the Brain Activity Map project Tuesday, The New York Times reports. The initiative, which will officially be known as Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies, or Brain for short, has been designated a grand challenge of the 21st century by the Obama administration.

The broad new research initiative, starting with $100 million in 2014, is intended to invent and… read more

Google’s smart contact lens project could allow diabetics to track glucose levels automatically

January 17, 2014

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To help people with diabetes as they try to keep their blood sugar levels under control, Google is testing a smart contact lens designed to measure glucose levels in tears.

It uses a tiny wireless chip and miniaturized glucose sensor that are embedded between two layers of soft contact lens material, according to Google Official Blog.

People with diabetes must still prick their finger and test… read more

Humanoid robot learns language like a baby [updated 6/15/2012]

Uncanny valley warning: video with slightly creepy talking robot baby
June 14, 2012

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With the help of human instructors, a robot has learned to talk like a human infant, learning the names of simple shapes and colors, reports Wired Science.

“Our work focuses on early stages analogous to some characteristics of a human child of about 6 to 14 months, the transition from babbling to first word forms,” wrote computer scientists led by Caroline Lyon of the University of Hertfordshire.… read more

‘Germanane’ may replace silicon for lighter, faster electronics

May replace silicon in semiconductors
April 12, 2013

Germanane single- or multiple-atom-layer sheets can be place onto silicon dioxide or silicon surfaces

In a paper published online in the journal ACS NanoJoshua Goldberger, assistant professor of chemistry at Ohio State University, and colleagues describe how they created a stable, one-atom-thick single layer of germanium atoms.

In this form, the crystalline material is called germanane.

The chemists found that it conducts electrons more than ten times faster than silicon and five times faster than conventional germanium — the same material that… read more

Brain has more than 100 times higher computational capacity than previously thought, say UCLA scientists

Dendrites found to generate nearly 10 times more electrochemical spikes than neuron cell bodies
March 10, 2017

Neuron (blue) with dendrites (credit: Shelley Halpain/UC San Diego)

The brain has more than 100 times higher computational capacity than was previously thought, a UCLA team has discovered.

Obsoleting neuroscience textbooks, this finding suggests that our brains are both analog and digital computers and could lead to new approaches for treating neurological disorders and developing brain-like computers, according to the researchers.

Dendrites have been considered simple passive conduits of signals. But by working… read more

Speech-classifier program is better at predicting psychosis than psychiatrists

100% accurate
August 31, 2015

This image shows discrimination between at-risk youths who transitioned to psychosis (red) and those who did not (blue). The 'convex hull' polyhedron contains all the at-risk youth who did NOT develop psychosis (blue). All of the at-risk youth who DID later develop psychosis (red) are outside the polyhedron. Thus the speech classifier had 100 percent discrimination or accuracy. The speech classifier consisted of 'mínimum semantic coherence' (the flow of meaning from one sentence to the next), and indices of reduced complexity of speech, including phrase length, and decreased use of 'determiner' pronouns ('that', 'what', 'whatever', 'which', and 'whichever'). (credit: npj Schizophrenia and Cheryl Corcoran et al./Columbia University Medical Center)

An automated speech analysis program correctly differentiated between at-risk young people who developed psychosis over a later two-and-a-half year period and those who did not.

In a proof-of-principle study, researchers at Columbia University Medical Center, New York State Psychiatric Institute, and the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center found that the computerized analysis provided a more accurate classification than clinical ratings.  The study was… read more

Breakthrough: compound generated by low carb/low-calorie diet blocks effects of aging

Discovery suggests way to protect cells from damage caused by oxidative stress
December 10, 2012

salad

Scientists at the Gladstone Institutes have identified a novel mechanism by which a type of low-carb, low-calorie diet — called a “ketogenic diet” — could delay the effects of aging: the compound  β-hydroxybutyrate (βOHB), a “ketone body” that is generated during a prolonged low-calorie or ketogenic diet.

Blocking oxidative stress

While ketone bodies such as βOHB can be toxic when… read more

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