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Voyager 1 embarks on historic journey into interstellar space

September 13, 2013

nasa_voyager

NASA‘s Voyager 1 spacecraft is now officially the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun.

New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside… read more

Creating new memories by directly changing the brain

Findings could prove helpful in understanding and resolving learning and memory disorders
September 13, 2013

Creating new memories

UC Irvine neurobiologists have created specific new memories by direct manipulation of the brain, which could prove key to understanding and potentially resolving learning and memory disorders.

Specific memories can be made by directly altering brain cells in the cerebral cortex, which produces the predicted specific memory, research led by senior author Norman M. Weinberger, a research professor of neurobiology & behavior at… read more

Microsoft’s Cortana to battle Siri

September 13, 2013

Cortana (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is preparing a Siri-like personal voice assistant based on Bing, code-named Cortana, for Windows Phone,  eWeek reports. (Cortana is a holographic AI construct that figures prominently in the Halo video game series.)

Like its Halo counterpart, Cortana “will be able to learn and adapt, thanks to machine-learning technology and the ‘Satori’ knowledge repository powering Bing,” according to ZDNet’s Mary Jane Foley.

Satori, which… read more

Selectively erasing unwanted memories

September 13, 2013

(Credit: Universal Studios)

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been able to erase dangerous drug-associated memories in mice and rats without affecting other more benign memories.

The surprising discovery points to a clear and workable method to disrupt unwanted memories while leaving the rest intact, the scientists say.

For recovering addicts and individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), unwanted memories… read more

A new method for harvesting energy from light

September 12, 2013

Researchers fabricated nanostructures with various photoconduction properties (credit: American Chemical Society)

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have demonstrated a new mechanism for extracting energy from light, a finding that could improve technologies for generating electricity from solar energy and lead to more efficient optoelectronic devices used in communications.

The research centers on plasmonic nanostructures, specifically, materials fabricated from gold particles and light-sensitive molecules of porphyin, of precise sizes and arranged in specific patterns.

Plasmons, or a… read more

A moveable, flexible display made of paper

September 12, 2013

flexpad

Flexpad transforms a standard sheet of paper into a moveable, flexible display.

The technology was developed in the “Flexpad” research project under the leadership of Jürgen Steimle in the MIT Media Lab and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, in cooperation with Kiel University.

“We routinely deform objects intuitively in many different ways. We bend back pages in books, deflate… read more

Designing amazingly strong materials from the bottom up

"The greater strength of these nanostructured materials comes from the fact that when samples become sufficiently small, their potential flaws also become very small"
September 12, 2013

3d_titanium_nitride

Why do the lightweight skeletons of organisms such as sea sponges display a strength that far exceeds that of man-made products constructed from similar materials?

Scientists have long suspected that the difference has to do with the hierarchical architecture of the biological materials — the way the silica-based skeletons are built up from different structural elements.

Now engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have… read more

Programmable glue made of DNA directs tiny gel bricks to self-assemble

New method could help to reconnect injured organs or build functional human tissues from the ground up
September 11, 2013

DNA glue featured

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have found a way to self-assemble complex structures out of bricks smaller than a grain of salt.

The self-assembly method could help solve one of the major challenges in tissue engineering: regrowing human tissue by injecting tiny components into the body that then self-assemble into larger, intricately structured, biocompatible scaffolds at an injury… read more

XPRIZE launches $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE

A global competition incentivizing breakthroughs in ocean pH sensing technologies to monitor and sustain the health of our oceans
September 11, 2013

ocean

XPRIZE has announced the launch of the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE. It aims to spur global innovators to develop accurate and affordable ocean pH sensors that will ultimately transform our understanding of ocean acidification, one of the gravest problems associated with the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

“Just as we have sensors to monitor our body’s vital signs, we… read more

NSA admits wrongly adding 16,000 phone numbers to ‘alert list’

September 11, 2013

NSA

The National Security Agency admitted in documents released Tuesday that it had wrongly put 16,000 phone numbers on an “alert list” so their incoming calls could be monitored, a mistake that a judge on the secret surveillance court called a “flagrant violation” of the law, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the… read more

Imaging most of a worm’s brain activity at high resolution and in a single operation

September 11, 2013

frontal_part_nematode

A new technique developed by Austrian scientists can record the activity of a worm’s brain with high temporal and spatial resolution, ultimately allowing for linking brain anatomy to brain function.

The worm in this study is nematode C. elegans, which has 302 neurons connected by roughly 8000 synapses. It is the only animal for which a complete nervous system has been anatomically mapped.

Researchers have so… read more

How touch and movement neurons shape the brain’s internal image of the body

Implications for the future design of neuroprosthetic devices controlled by brain-machine interfaces
September 10, 2013

wbkgrd

The brain’s tactile and motor neurons, which perceive touch and control movement, may also respond to visual cues, according to researchers at Duke Medicine.

The phenomenon has some similarity to the “McGurk effect,” where visual cues dominate sound.

The study in monkeys provides new information on how different areas of the brain may work together in continuously shaping the brain’s internal image… read more

Breakthrough in cryptography could result in more secure computing

September 10, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

New research to be presented at the 18th European Symposium on Research in Computer Security (ESORICS 2013) this week could result in a sea change in how to secure computations.

The collaborative work between the University of Bristol and Aarhus University (Denmark) will be presented by Bristol PhD student Peter Scholl from the Department of Computer Science.

The SPDZ protocol… read more

NSF awards $25 million to MIT-based center to advance brain understanding

September 10, 2013

new_ai_research_mit

To help encourage progress in learning how the brain performs complex computations, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded $25 million to establish a Center for Brains, Minds and Machines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

The center is one of three new research centers funded this year through NSF’s Science and Technology Centers:read more

How to use DNA to assemble a transistor from graphene

September 10, 2013

Stanford chemical engineering professor Zhenan Bao and her co-authors have revealed a plan to build smaller field-effect transistors (FETs) that use less power but operate faster,* using ribbons of single-layer graphene laid side-by-side to create semiconductor circuits.

(Graphene, laterally confined within narrow ribbons less than 10 nanometers in width, exhibits a bandgap, meaning it can function as a semiconductor.)

Given the material’s tiny dimensions… read more

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