science + technology news

Musk, others commit $1 billion to non-profit AI research company to ‘benefit humanity’

Open-sourcing AI development to prevent an AI superpower takeover
December 11, 2015

OpenAI ft

Elon Musk and associates announced OpenAI, a non-profit AI research company, on Friday (Dec. 11), committing $1 billion toward their goal to “advance digital intelligence in the way that is most likely to benefit humanity as a whole, unconstrained by a need to generate financial return.”

The funding comes from a group of tech leaders including Musk, Reid Hoffman, Peter Thiel, and Amazon Web Services, but the… read more

MIT invention could boost resolution of 3-D depth cameras 1,000-fold

Imagine 3-D depth cameras built into cellphones, 3-D printing replicas, and driverless cars with clear vision in rain, snow, or fog
December 11, 2015

Kinect - laser scanner

MIT researchers have shown that by exploiting light polarization (as in polarized sunglasses) they can increase the resolution of conventional 3-D imaging devices such as the Microsoft Kinect as much as 1,000 times.

The technique could lead to high-quality 3-D cameras built into cellphones, and perhaps the ability to snap a photo of an object and then use a 3-D printer to produce a replica. Further out, the work… read more

How to create a synthesized actor performance in post-production

More Disney Research magic
December 11, 2015

facial blind ft

Disney Research has devised a way to blend an actor’s facial performances from a few or multiple takes to allow a director to get just the right emotion, instead of re-shooting the scene multiple times.

“It’s not unheard of for a director to re-shoot a crucial scene dozens of times, even 100 or more times, until satisfied,” said Markus Gross, vice president of research at Disney Research. “That not… read more

Shaking out the nanomaterials: a new method to purify water

December 10, 2015

nanoparticles in water ft

A new study published in the American Chemical Society’s journal Applied Materials and Interfaces has found a novel—and very simple—way to remove nearly 100 percent of nanomaterials from water.

Water and oil don’t mix, of course, but shaking them together is what makes salad dressing so great. Only instead of emulsifying and capturing bits of shitake or basil in tiny olive oil bubbles, this mixture grabs nanomaterials.

Dongyan Zhang,… read more

Periodic table of protein complexes helps predict novel protein structures

December 10, 2015

An interactive Periodic Table of Protein Complexes is available at (credit: EMBL-EBI / Spencer Phillips)

The Periodic Table of Protein Complexes, developed by researchers in the UK and to be published Dec. 11 in the journal Science, offers a new way of looking at the enormous variety of structures that proteins can build in nature. More importantly, it suggests which ones might be discovered next and how entirely novel structures could be engineered.

Created by an interdisciplinary team led by… read more

Worm research in life extension leads scientists to discover new metric to track aging

Living longer usually means a living longer in old age, but wouldn't it better to extend young adulthood instead?
December 10, 2015

C. elegans nematode worm (credit: The Goldstein Lab)

When researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) in California administered an antidepressant called mianserin to the Caenorhabditis elegans roundworm in 2007, they discovered the drug increased the lifespan of the “young adulthood” of roundworms by 30–40 per cent.

So, does that mean it will work in humans? Not necessarily. “There are millions of years of evolution between worms and humans,” says TSRI researcher Michael… read more

When machines learn like humans

Probabilistic programs pass the "visual Turing test"
December 10, 2015

Visual Turing-ft

A team of scientists has developed an algorithm that captures human learning abilities, enabling computers to recognize and draw simple visual concepts that are mostly indistinguishable from those created by humans.

The work by researchers at MIT, New York University, and the University of Toronto, which appears in the latest issue of the journal Science, marks a significant advance in the… read more

How to animate a digital model of a person from images collected from the Internet

May allow for creating fully interactive, 3-D digital personas from photo albums, videos, other sources, or transfer expressions onto the face of someone else
December 9, 2015


University of Washington researchers have demonstrated that it’s possible for machine learning algorithms to capture the “persona” and create a digital model of a well-photographed person like Tom Hanks from the vast number of images of them available on the Internet. With enough visual data to mine, the algorithms can also animate the digital model of Tom Hanks to deliver speeches that the real actor never performed.… read more

Playing 3-D video games can boost memory formation

December 9, 2015

video game intervention-ft

Playing three-dimensional video games can boost the formation of memories, especially for people who lose memory as they age or suffer from dementia, according to University of California, Irvine (UCI) neurobiologists.

Craig Stark and Dane Clemenson of UCI’s Center for the Neurobiology of Learning & Memory recruited non-gamer college students to play either a video game with a passive, two-dimensional environment (“Angry Birds”)… read more

Skyscraper-style carbon-nanotube chip design ‘boosts electronic performance by factor of a thousand’

December 9, 2015

A multi-campus team led by Stanford engineers Subhasish Mitra and H.-S. Philip Wong has developed a revolutionary high-rise architecture for computing (Stanford University)

Researchers at Stanford and three other universities are creating a revolutionary new skyscraper-like high-rise architecture for computing based on carbon nanotube materials instead of silicon.

In Rebooting Computing, a special issue (in press) of the IEEE Computer journal, the team describes its new approach as “Nano-Engineered Computing Systems Technology,” or N3XT.

Suburban-style chip layouts create long commutes and regular traffic jams in electronic circuits, wasting time and energy, they note.… read more

AI will replace smartphones within 5 years, Ericsson survey suggests

December 9, 2015

(credit: Ericsson ConsumerLab)

Artificial intelligence (AI) interfaces will take over, replacing smartphones in five years, according to a survey of more than 5000 smartphone customers in nine countries by Ericsson ConsumerLab in the fifth edition of its annual trend report, 10 Hot Consumer Trends 2016 (and beyond).

Smartphone users believe AI will take over many common activities, such as searching the net, getting travel guidance, and as personal assistants. The survey… read more

Chemicals that make plants defend themselves could replace pesticides

New study identifies five candidate chemicals to help rice beat planthoppers without pesticides
December 8, 2015

Sogatella furcifera

Chemical triggers that make plants defend themselves against insects could replace pesticides, causing less damage to the environment. New research published in an open-access paper in Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters identifies five chemicals that trigger rice plants to fend off a common pest — the white-backed planthopper, Sogatella furcifera.

Pesticides have a detrimental effect on ecosystems, ravaging food chains and damaging the environment. One of the problems with many… read more

Parkinson’s disease researchers discover a way to reprogram the genome to produce dopamine neurons

May enable researchers to generate patient-specific neurons to be transplanted into the brain to repair faulty neurons; also a generic way to change cells from one type to another
December 8, 2015

Image shows a protein found only in neurons (red) and an enzyme that synthesizes dopamine (green). Cell DNA is labeled in blue. (credit: Jian Feng, University at Buffalo)

Parkinson’s disease researchers at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo have developed a way to ramp up the conversion of skin cells into neurons that can produce dopamine.

For decades, the elusive holy grail in Parkinson’s disease research has been finding a way to repair faulty dopamine neurons and put them back into patients, where they will start producing dopamine… read more

Can physical activity make you learn better?

Apparently so --- at least for speed of recovery of vision after an eye-patch test; may offer hope for people with traumatic brain injury or eye conditions such as amblyopia
December 8, 2015

This is an artistic representation of the take home messages in Lunghi and Sale: "A cycling lane for brain rewiring," which is that physical activity (such as cycling) is associated with increased brain plasticity. (credit: Dafne Lunghi Art)

Exercise may enhance plasticity of the adult brain — the ability of our neurons to change with experience — which is essential for learning, memory, and brain repair, Italian researchers report in an open-access paper in the Cell Press journal Current Biology.

Their research, which focused on the the visual cortex, may offer hope for people with traumatic brain injury or eye conditions such as amblyopia,… read more

As the worm turns: research tracks how an embryo’s brain is assembled

December 7, 2015


New open-source software that can help track the embryonic development and movement of neuronal cells throughout the body of a worm is now available to scientists. The software is described in a paper published in the open access journal, eLife on December 3rd by a research team*.

One significant challenge is determining the formation of complex neuronal structures made up of billions of cells in the human brain. As… read more

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