science + technology news

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

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

icub1

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

What happens when we all drive electric vehicles?

March 5, 2015

(credit: Hasselt University)

The European Union predicts that electric vehicles (EV) could be in mass production by 2020. But what might be their impacts, such as new demands on electrical distribution grids and on how and where we travel?

The EU DATA SIM project, a  consortium of nine partners from seven countries with EUR 2,3 million investment from the EU, was created for that purpose.

It has… read more

Google Glass: how it works (infographic)

April 15, 2013

google-glass-projector

German artist Martin Missfeldt has created an infographic that attempts to show how Google Glass works, based on various sources (listed below). One correction: an image is actually not projected directly onto the retina; it is refracted by the cornea and focused by the lens.

Agricultural robots may reduce costs of organic produce

September 20, 2012

blue_river_7

Blue River Technology has announced $3.1 million in funding for its plans to develop agricultural robots that can automatically kill weeds and thin out plants like lettuce that need adequate room to grow, CNET reports.

It could help reduce the cost of organic produce.

The startup’s prototype Lettuce Bot uses a camera to image the plants beneath it. Machine learning algorithms then identify which ones are desirable and… read more

A 3D-printing pen

February 25, 2013

3doodler

Have you ever wished you could just draw a object in the air and have it magically printed out? 

WoobbleWorks has created 3Doodler (a Kickstarter project), the world’s first “3D printing pen” to do just that.

As you draw, it extrudes ABS plastic (the material used by many 3D printers) in the air or on surfaces — no software or computers required.

The… read more

First full-resolution and panorama images from NASA’s Curiosity Mars Rover

August 9, 2012

First full-resolution (1024 by 1024 pixels) long-range image of the Martian surface from one of the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's "head" or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground. The topography of the rim is very mountainous due to erosion. The ground seen in the middle shows low-relief scarps and plains. The foreground shows two distinct zones of excavation likely carved out by blasts from the rover's descent stage thrusters. (Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

Artificial robot muscles that could lift loads 80 times their weight

A future Iron Man technology?
September 4, 2013

An artificial muscle (the transparent strip with thin black lines running down its length) being pre-stretched

National University of Singapore’s (NUS) engineers have created efficient artificial muscles that could one day carry 80 times their own weight and extend to five times their original length when carrying the load.

The team’s invention could lead to life-like robots with superhuman strength and ability and convert and store energy, which could help the robots quickly charge themselves.

Powerful human-like muscles for robotsread more

Next-generation supercomputer will have 180 petaflop/s peak performance

April 9, 2015

Tianhe-2-supercomputer

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has invested $200 million to deliver a next-generation supercomputer, known as Aurora, with a peak performance of 180 petaflop/s (quadrillions of calculations per second).

Scheduled for completion in 2018, Aurora will be based on a next-generation Cray supercomputer, code-named “Shasta,” and will use Intel’s HPC scalable system framework. The  supercomputer will be open to all scientific users.

The current fastest supercomputer is… read more

Black holes growing faster than expected

February 14, 2013

M104_ngc4594_sombrero_galaxy

Black holes are growing faster than previously thought possible, according to new research published Wednesday in the Astrophysical Journal.

Even the black hole in our own Milky Way Galaxy, which otherwise appears very quiet, has probably been consuming the equivalent of one Sun every 3000 years.

Until recently, astronomers thought that black holes grow mostly when galaxies crash into each other, at which time a large… read more

Harnessing the energy of 2,000 suns

April 29, 2013

HCPVT

The Swiss Commission for Technology and Innovation has awarded scientists a $2.4 million (2.25 million CHF) grant to develop an affordable photovoltaic system capable of concentrating solar radiation 2,000 times and converting 80 percent of the incoming radiation into useful energy.*

The system would also provide desalinated water and cool air in sunny, remote locations where they are often in short supply.

The prototype HCPVT system… read more

Google simulates brain networks to recognize speech and images

October 5, 2012

unsupervised_icml2012_cat_and_face

This summer Google set a new landmark in the field of artificial intelligence with software that learned how to recognize cats, people, and other things simply by watching YouTube videos (see “Self-Taught Software“).

That technology, modeled on how brain cells operate, is now being put to work making Google’s products smarter, with speech recognition being the first service to benefit, Technology Review reports.… read more

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