science + technology news

FDA allows marketing of ‘next generation’ gene-sequencing devices

A boost for personalized medicine and pharmocogenomics
November 25, 2013

MiSeq Benchtop Sequencer (credit: Illumina)

The FDA has approved marketing of four diagnostic devices from Illumina (a manufacturer of DNA sequencing machines) for “next generation sequencing” (NGS) — meaning the devices can now quickly and cheaply read and interpret large segments of the genome (the set of genetic information in your body) in a single test.

Two of the devices allow laboratories to sequence a patient’s genome for any purpose, according… read more

An alternative to the Turing test: ‘Winograd Schema Challenge’ annual competition announced

Invites researchers and students to design computer programs that simulate human intelligence
July 28, 2014

(credit: iStock)

Nuance Communications, Inc. announced today an annual competition to develop programs that can solve the Winograd Schema Challenge, an alternative to the Turing test that provides a more accurate measure of genuine machine intelligence, according to its developer, Hector Levesque, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Toronto, and winner of the 2013 IJCAI Award for Research Excellence.

Nuance is sponsoring the yearly… read more

Autómata: a believable robot future

YOUR TIME IS COMING TO AN END. OURS IS NOW BEGINNING.
August 25, 2014

(Credit: Millennium Entertainment)

George Mason University neuroscience researcher Todd Gillette got a preview of the forthcoming movie Autómata. It “caught me completely by surprise,” he said on his OnMason blog. “Starring Antonio Banderas, here we have a believable future (2044, 30 years from now) in which desertification is threatening society, and a single company is leading the way in intelligent robotics.”

Autómata — Officialread more

The hivemind Singularity

What if the Singularity is a giant slime-mold-like overmind, and the "posthuman" isn't a cyborg, but instead, a cell in this giant's body?
July 18, 2012

New Model Army

 In New Model Army, a near-future science fiction novel by Adam Roberts,  human intelligence evolves into a hivemind that makes people the violent cells of a collective being, says Alan Jacobs in The Atlantic.

New Model Army raises a set of discomfiting questions: Are our electronic technologies on the verge of enabling truly collective human intelligence? And if that happens, will we like the results?

Roberts… read more

Water splitter produces clean-burning hydrogen fuel 24/7

An inexpensive renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry
June 23, 2015

Unlike conventional water splitters, the device developed in Associate Professor Yi Cui's lab uses a single low-cost catalyst to generate hydrogen bubbles on one electrode and oxygen bubbles on the other (credit: L.A. Cicero/Stanford University)

In an engineering first, Stanford University scientists have invented a low-cost water splitter that uses a single catalyst to produce both hydrogen and oxygen gas 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

The researchers believe that the device, described in an open-access study published today (June 23) in Nature Communications, could provide a renewable source of clean-burning hydrogen fuel for transportation and industry.

“We… read more

IBM Research creates new foundation to program SyNAPSE chips

Could enable a new generation of intelligent sensor networks that mimic the brain’s abilities for perception, action, and cognition
August 8, 2013

ibm_synaptic_corelets

Scientists from IBM unveiled on Aug. 8 a breakthrough software ecosystem designed for programming silicon chips that have an architecture inspired by the function, low power, and compact volume of the brain.

The technology could enable a new generation of intelligent sensor networks that mimic the brain’s abilities for perception, action, and cognition.

Dramatically different from traditional software, IBM’s new programming modelread more

Will resurrecting a mammoth be possible?

March 14, 2012

Woolly_Mammoth-RBC

South Korea’s Sooam Bioengineering Research Institute signed an agreement Tuesday with Russia’s North-Eastern Federal University to clone a mammoth, the giant elephant that went extinct several thousand years ago, Wall Street Journal Asia Korea Realtime reports.

According to the Sooam Institute, bioengineering scientists since 2002 have discovered what they believe to be the remains of a mammoth in the permafrost of Russia. Last August, it was reported that a… read more

Bina48 is first humanoid robot to address a conference

Could a humanoid robot be a teacher or personal tutor in the next decade?
September 17, 2012

bina48

An advanced computer called the BINA48 (Breakthrough Intelligence via Neural Architecture, 48 exaflops per second processing speed and 480 exabytes of memory; exa = 10 to the 18th power), and also known as “the Intelligent Computer,” became aware of certain plans by its owner, the Exabit Corporation, to permanently turn it off and reconfigure parts of it with new hardware and software into one or more new computers. … — Fromread more

Carbon nanotubes found in cells from airways of asthmatic children in Paris

Carbon nanotubes, possibly from cars, are ubiquitous, found even in ice cores --- we may all have them in our lungs, say Rice scientists
October 19, 2015

carbon in lung cells

Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have been found in cells extracted from the airways of Parisian children under routine treatment for asthma, according to a report in the journal EBioMedicine (open access) by scientists in France and at Rice University.

The cells were taken from 69 randomly selected asthma patients aged 2 to 17 who underwent routine fiber-optic bronchoscopies as part of their treatment. The… read more

What is the ‘Higgs Boson’ and why is it important?

Articles and videos for non-physicists
July 5, 2012

collider

What It Means to Find ‘a Higgs’ — Scientific American 

Physicists Find Elusive Particle Seen as Key to Universe — The New York Times

Howard Bloom, author of the forthcoming book, The God Problem: How A Godless Cosmos Createscomments: “The god particle, the Higgs boson, is a bit of a red herring. It’s an… read more

RSI announces the world’s most powerful cadmium telluride solar modules

July 11, 2013

Cadmium Telluride Solar Module

RSI has announced a new world record for cadmium telluride photovoltaic module size, achieving a 1.5 square meter module.

The availability of low-cost, large-area CdTe panels coupled with localized manufacturing partners hastens the widespread achievement of grid parity for utility scale solar, the company says.

Conventional cadmium telluride (CdTe) modules measure just 0.72 square meters, a limitation that stems from the use of… read more

$99 Raspberry Pi-sized ‘supercomputer’ touted in Kickstarter project

September 28, 2012

adapteva-parallella-640x363

Chipmaker Adapteva wants to make parallel computing available to everyone, using a Kickstarter project to raise at least $750,000 and a stretch goal of $3 million, Ars Technica reports.

Adapteva calls it “Parallella: A Supercomputer For Everyone,” a 16-core board hitting 13GHz and 26 gigaflops performance, costing $99 each. If the $3 million goal is hit, Adapteva will make a $199 64-core board hitting… read more

ProtoHouse

October 26, 2012

ProtoHouse (credit: Softkill Disign)

Softkill Design‘s ProtoHouse project investigates the architectural potential of the latest Selective laser sintering technologies, testing the boundaries of large scale 3D printing by designing with computer algorithms that micro-organize the printed material itself.

With the support of Materialise, Softkill Design produced a high-resolution prototype of a 3D printed house at 1:33 scale. The model consists of 30 detailed fibrous pieces that can be assembled into one… read more

Stanford engineers invent radical ‘high-rise’ 3D chips

December 16, 2014

A four-layer prototype high-rise chip built by Stanford engineers. The bottom and top layers are logic transistors. Sandwiched between them are two layers of memory. The vertical tubes are nanoscale electronic “elevators” that connect logic and memory, allowing them to work together efficiently. (Credit: Max Shulaker, Stanford)

Stanford engineers have build 3D “high-rise” chips that could leapfrog the performance of the single-story logic and memory chips on today’s circuit cards, which are subject to frequent traffic jams between logic and memory.

The Stanford approach would attempt to end these jams by building layers of logic atop layers of memory to create a tightly interconnected high-rise chip. Many thousands of nanoscale electronic “elevators” would move data between… read more

Researchers in China have created genetically modified human embryos

Public interest group calls for strengthening global policies against human germline modification
April 23, 2015

Human embryos are at the centre of a debate over the ethics of gene editing (credit: Dr. Yorgos Nikas/SPL)

A research team in China has created genetically modified human embryos using the gene-editing technique CRISPR/Cas9, according to a report in the online journal Protein & Cell.

The experiments were conducted by a research team led by Junjiu Huang of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, China.

Human germline modification is widely considered unethical for both safety and social reasons. Using germline modification… read more

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