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Whales boast the brain cells that ‘make us human’

November 28, 2006

Whales have spindle neurons — specialised brain cells that are involved in processing emotions and helping us interact socially.

The cells occur in parts of the human brain that are thought to be responsible for our social organization, empathy, speech, intuition about the feelings of others, and rapid “gut” reactions.

What is more, whales appear to have had these cells for at least twice as long as humans,… read more

‘Wet’ computer server could cut wasted energy for cooling

February 27, 2013


A revolutionary liquid-cooled computer server design that could slash the carbon footprint of the Internet is being tested at the University of Leeds.

Unlike most computers, which use air to cool their electronics, all of the components in the new server are completely immersed in liquid. The power-hungry fans of traditional computing are replaced by a silent liquid-cooling process that relies on the natural convection… read more

Western diets turn on fat genes

December 1, 2009

A diet high in fat and sugar switches on genes that ultimately cause our bodies to store too much fat, adding to the already difficult task of converting high-fat and high-sugar foods to energy, according to a study published online in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Journal.

West Antarctic Ice Sheet collapse is underway

May 13, 2014


Antarctica’s fast-moving Thwaites Glacier will likely disappear in a matter of centuries, potentially raising sea level by more than a half-a-meter (two feet), National Science Foundation-funded researchers at the University of Washington have concluded

Data gathered by NSF-funded airborne radar, detailed topography maps, and computer modeling were used to make the determination.

The glacier acts as an ice dam, stabilizing and regulating movement toward the sea… read more

We’re Watching U.

March 31, 2012

MQ-9 Reaper drone (credit: U.S. Air Force)

Amid a worldwide boom in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), a handful of U.S. colleges have begun offering classes and even four-year degrees for students looking for jobs in this fast-growing field, where even newcomers can earn six-figure salaries, The Daily reports.

Starting salaries for drone pilots range from $50,000 to $120,000 per year, said Tom Kenville, who founded a trade group called Unmanned Applications Institute International for development… read more

We’re underestimating the risk of human extinction

March 7, 2012


Unthinkable as it may be, humanity, every last person, could someday be wiped from the face of the Earth. We have learned to worry about asteroids and supervolcanoes, but the more-likely scenario, according to Nick Bostrom, a professor of philosophy at Oxford, is that we humans will destroy ourselves.

Most worrying to Bostrom is the subset of existential risks that arise from human technology, a subset that he expects… read more

We’re In Danger of Losing Our Memories

January 27, 2009

As the Internet evolves and technologies become obsolete, and with the continual loss of online records (like what happened at on Jan. 20, when all traces of George W. Bush disappeared), we are in danger of creating a black hole for future historians and writers unless urgent action is taken.

As chief executive of the British Library, it’s Lynne Brindley’s job to ensure that this does not extend… read more

‘We’re building a brain!’

April 5, 2002

Lobal Technologies of London is building a natural language processing system called LAD (Language Acquisition Device) that understands sentences word by word and builds its replies word-by-word, rather than just reading a script.The system is based on a model of the human brain, with emulators for the five brain areas that are most important for language processing, built using neural network technology

Lobal’s roadmap for developing LAD is based… read more

We’re all living longer, but longevity increases not benefitting everybody

December 21, 2012


Global lifespans have risen dramatically in the past 40 years, but the increased life expectancy is not benefitting body equally, say University of Toronto researchers. In particular, adult males from low- and middle-income countries are losing ground.

People are living longer on average than they were in 1970, and those extra years of life are being achieved at lower cost, the researchers, led by U of… read more

WellPoint and IBM to use Watson to improve health care

September 14, 2011


IBM and health insurer WellPoint have teamed up to develop and launch Watson-based solutions to help improve patient care through the delivery of up-to-date, evidence-based health care. They plan to start in early 2012, working with select physician groups in clinical pilots.

For physicians, incorporating hundreds of thousands of articles into practice and applying them to patient… read more

Wellcome Trust joins ‘academic spring’ to open up science

April 11, 2012


One of the world’s largest funders of science  the Wellcome Trust, the largest non-governmental funder of medical research after the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is now behind a growing campaign to break the stranglehold of academic journals and allow all research papers to be shared online.

Nearly 9,000 researchers have already signed up to a… read more

Well-connected hemispheres of Einstein’s brain may have contributed to his brilliance

October 6, 2013

Albert Einstein's corpus callosum. Color codes indicate the varying thicknesses of subdivisions of the corpus callosum (credit: Men et al./Brain)

The left and right hemispheres of Albert Einstein’s brain were unusually well connected to each other and this may have contributed to his brilliance, according to a new study [1], the first to detail Einstein’s corpus callosum.

The corpus callosum is the brain’s largest bundle of fibers that connects the two cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication.

The study was published in the journal Brain. Lead… read more

Well-connected brains make you smarter in older age

May 24, 2012

Core subnetwork (PNAS)

Older people with robust brain “wiring” — nerve fibers that connect different, distant brain areas — can process information quickly and that this makes them generally smarter, University of Edinburgh research suggests.

According to the findings, joining distant parts of the brain together with better wiring improves mental performance, suggesting that intelligence is not found in a single part of the brain.

However a loss of condition… read more

Welded nanowires may lead to low-cost touch-screens, video displays, LEDs, and thin-film solar cells

February 7, 2012

A titled, cross-sectional scanning electron microscope image of plasmonically welded nanowires of silver (credit: Mark Brongersma | Stanford)

Stanford University engineers have demonstrated a promising new nanowire welding technique to create electrically conductive meshes made of metal nanowires.

The research promises to lead to exceptional electrical throughput, low cost and easy processing for new generations of touch-screens, video displays, light-emitting diodes, and thin-film solar cells.

In processing, these delicate meshes must be heated or pressed to unite the crisscross pattern of nanowires that form the mesh,… read more

Welcome to the programmable world

May 15, 2013


Tiny, intelligent things all around us, coordinating their activities. There are few more appropriate guides to this impending future than Alex Hawkinson, whose DC-based startup, SmartThings, has built what’s arguably the most advanced hub to tie connected objects together, Wired reports.

At his house, more than 200 objects, from the garage door to the coffeemaker to his daughter’s trampoline, are all connected to his SmartThings system.… read more

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