the digest

We need to forget things to make space to learn new things, scientists discover

Mice study, if confirmed in people, might help forget traumatic experiences
March 21, 2016

The three routes into the hippocampus seem to be linked to different aspects of learning: forming memories (green), recalling them (yellow) and forgetting (red). (credit: John Wood)

While you’re reading this (and learning about this new study), your brain is actively trying to forget something.

We apologize, but that’s what scientists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University Pablo Olavide in Sevilla, Spain, found in a new study published Friday (March 18) in an open-access paper in Nature Communications.

“This is the first time that a pathway in the brain has… read more

We may all be Martians, says geochemist

It's likely that life came to Earth on a Martian meteorite; conditions suitable for the origin of life may still exist on Mars
August 30, 2013

mars_nasa_image

New evidence has emerged that supports the long-debated theory that life on Earth may have started on Mars.

Speaking at the at the annual Goldschmidt conference on Thursday, Professor Steven Benner from The Westheimer Institute for Science and Technology told geochemists that an oxidized mineral form of the element molybdenum, which may have been crucial to the origin of life, could only have been available… read more

We humans can mind-meld too

July 27, 2010

Uri Hasson of Princeton University.found that fMRI scans of 11 people’s brains as they listened to a woman recounting a story.showed that the listeners’ brain patterns tracked those of the storyteller almost exactly, but 1 to 3 seconds behind. In some listeners, brain patterns even preceded those of the storyteller.

‘We have detected gravitational waves’ — LIGO scientists

February 11, 2016

The gravitational-wave event on Sept. 14, 2015 at 09:50:45 UTC was observed by the two LIGO detectors in Livingston, Loiusiana (blue) and Hanford, Washington (orange). The matching waveforms represent gravitational-wave strain generated by the inferred merger of two inspiraling black holes. (credit: B. P. Abbott et al./PhysRevLett)

On Sept. 14, 2015 at 5:51 a.m. EDT (09:51 UTC) for the first time, scientists observed ripples in the fabric of spacetime called gravitational waves, arriving at Earth from a cataclysmic event in the distant universe, the National Science Foundation and scientists at the LIGO Scientific Collaboration announced today. This confirms a major prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity and opens an unprecedented new window to the… read more

We can survive killer asteroids — but it won’t be easy

April 4, 2012

(Credit: Don Davis)

More than a thousand known asteroids are classed as “potentially hazardous,” based on size and trajectory, says astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson in Wired Science.

Currently, it looks doable to develop an early-warning and defense system that could protect the human species from impactors larger than a kilometer wide. … Smaller ones, which reflect much less light and are therefore much harder to detect at great distances, carry enough energy to incinerate entire… read more

We can make multicore chips smarter, faster — we have the technology

March 2, 2015

(credit: Christine Daniloff/MIT)

Computer chips’ clocks have stopped getting faster, so chipmakers are instead giving chips more cores, which can execute computations in parallel.

Now, in simulations involving a 64-core chip, MIT computer scientists have improved a system that cleverly distributes data around multicore chips’ memory banks — increasing system computational speeds by 46 percent while reducing power consumption by 36 percent.

“Now that the way to improve performance is… read more

We can feed 9 billion people in 2050

January 12, 2011

The 9 billion people projected to inhabit the Earth by 2050 need not starve in order to preserve the environment, says a major report on sustainability out this week based on a huge five-year modeling exercise by the French national agricultural and development research agencies, INRA andCIRAD.

We Are the Web

August 3, 2005

The Web, a planet-sized computer, is comparable in complexity to a human brain. Both the brain and the Web have hundreds of billions of neurons (or Web pages). Each biological neuron sprouts synaptic links to thousands of other neurons, while each Web page branches into dozens of hyperlinks.

That adds up to a trillion “synapses” between the static pages on the Web. The human brain has about 100 times… read more

‘We are probably one of the last generations of Homo sapiens’ — Yuval Noah Harari

August 25, 2016

(credit: Cognitive)

Historian and author of the international bestseller Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, Yuval Noah Harari predicts the future of humanity.

“We are probably one of the last generations of Homo sapiens,” he tells BBC Radio 4′s Today programme.

Animation by Cognitive.

We are now one year away from global riots, complex systems theorists say

September 11, 2012

Riots

What’s the number one reason we riot? Hunger — food becoming too scarce or too expensive. So argues a group of complex systems theorists in Cambridge, and it makes sense, Motherboard reports.

In a 2011 paper, researchers at the Complex Systems Institute (CSI) unveiled a model that accurately explained why the waves of unrest that swept the world in 2008 and 2011 crashed when they… read more

We Are All Mutants: Measurement Of Mutation Rate In Humans By Direct Sequencing

September 3, 2009

We all carry 100-200 new mutations in our DNA, according to researchers from The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute/

‘Wavelength disk drive’ speeds distributed computing

June 12, 2001

The “wavelength disk drive” could make interactions between computers up to 20 times faster, expanding the scope of distributed computing.

Exchanged data is stored in wavelengths of light circling in a fiber-optic network. Computers on the network can perform calculations and “write” the data to an assigned wavelength. They then “read” other processors’ results from the light stream, repeating the process until the calculation is done.

Wave-particle duality visualized in quantum movie

March 27, 2012

interference pattern

An international team of scientists has shot a video that shows the build-up of a matter-wave interference pattern from single dye molecules. The pattern is so large (up to 0.1 mm), it can been seen with a video camera.

The video visualizes the dualities of particle and wave, randomness and determinism, and locality and delocalization in an intuitive way.

Physicist Richard Feynman once claimed that… read more

Wave energy costs should compare favorably to other energy sources

January 7, 2015

The Ocean Sentinel, one of the nation's first wave-energy testing devices, has been deployed off the Oregon Coast (credit: Pat Kight, Oregon Sea Grant)

Large-scale wave energy systems developed in the Pacific Northwest should be comparatively steady, dependable, and able to be integrated into the overall energy grid at lower costs than some other forms of alternative energy, including wind power, a new analysis suggests.

The findings, published in the journal Renewable Energy, confirm what scientists have expected — that wave energy will have fewer problems with variability than some energy sources and… read more

Watson’s new job: IBM salesman

February 8, 2012

IBMWatson

IBM’s Watson is having its biggest impact by pulling in new customers for existing business products as IBM persuades them to organize their data into formats that an AI like Watson can better understand.

IBM has created a slogan, “Ready for Watson,” to help sell its products that way.

At the heart of Watson is a system known as DeepQA. This is not yet for sale,… read more

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