science + technology news

Computer modeling: brain in a box

February 23, 2012

Neocortical column (credit: EPFL)

Henry Markram’s controversial proposal for the Human Brain Project (HBP) — an effort to build a supercomputer simulation that integrates everything known about the human brain, from the structures of ion channels in neural cell membranes up to mechanisms behind conscious decision-making — may soon fulfill his ambition.

The project is one of six finalists vying to win €1 billion (US$1.3 billion) as one of the European Union’s two new… read more

The drone threat — in the US

March 27, 2012

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Drone proliferation raises an issue that has received too little attention: the threat that they could be used to carry out terrorist attacks.

President Obama signed a sweeping aviation bill in February that will open American airspace to “unmanned aircraft systems,” a.k.a.  drones.

The technology exists to build drones that fit into a backpack and are equipped with a video camera and a warhead so they can be… read more

Beam yourself to work in a remote-controlled body

September 26, 2012

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To make it more practical for engineers and others living in cheaper places to telecommute to work, Suitable Technologies (a Willow Garage spinoff) has developed a roving telepresence system that is more practical and less awkward to use than previous systems, says founder Scott Hassan, Technology Review reports.

The $16,000 Beam Remote Presence telepresence system, now available, can save on the expense and time of long-haul travel and allows remote workers to be… 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

Can computers understand art?

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

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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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Low-power chips to model a billion neurons

August 1, 2012

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A miniature, massively parallel computer, powered by a million ARM processors, could produce the best brain simulations yet, Steve Furber suggests in IEEE Spectrum.

With traditional digital circuits, that would require a supercomputer that’s 1000 times as powerful as the best ones we have available today. And we’d need the output of an entire nuclear power plant to run it.

Fortunately, there are at… read more

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