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A roll of the dice

Quantum theory essentially provides the ultimate bound on how predictable the universe is
July 13, 2012

roll_of_dice

Quantum theory is close to optimal in terms of its predictive power, say researchers from the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo, the University of Calgary’s Institute for Quantum Information Science, and the Eidgenössische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zürich.

But in quantum mechanics, even if all the information is available, the outcomes of certain experiments generally can’t be perfectly predicted beforehand.

This inability to accurately predict the results of… read more

A room-temperature spin amplifier

Could lead to storing data more densely and processing it many times faster and with greater energy efficiency
November 23, 2012

spintronics

A fundamental cornerstone for spintronics that has been missing up until now has been constructed by a team of physicists at Linköping University: the world’s first spin amplifier that can be used at room temperature.

Spintronics combines microelectronics, which is built on the charge of electrons, with the magnetism that originates in the electrons’ “spin” (how electrons spin around, much like how the Earth spins on… read more

A safer way to vaccinate

Polymer film that gradually releases DNA coding for viral proteins could offer a better alternative to traditional vaccines
January 29, 2013

Vaccines usually consist of inactivated viruses that prompt the immune system to remember the invader and launch a strong defense if it later encounters the real thing. However, this approach can be too risky with certain viruses, including HIV.

In recent years, many scientists have been exploring DNA as a potential alternative vaccine. About 20 years ago, DNA coding for viral proteins was found to induce strong immune responses… read more

A Sci-Fi Future Awaits the Court

September 22, 2005

At John Roberts’ confirmation hearings last week, there weren’t enough discussions about science fiction. Technologies that are science fiction today will become constitutional questions before Roberts retires from the bench. The same goes for technologies that cannot even be conceived of now. And many of these questions involve privacy.

A search engine for the human body

March 14, 2011

Body Scan

A new search tool developed by researchers at Microsoft indexes medical images of the human body, automatically finding organs and other structures, using 3D medical imagery.

CT scans use X-rays to capture many slices through the body that can be combined to create a 3D representation. This is a powerful tool for diagnosis, but it’s difficult to navigate.

The new search tool indexes scanned data and lists the… read more

A Search Service that Can Peer into the Future

August 25, 2010

timeexplorer

Yahoo’s Barcelona research lab has launched a prototype news search engine called Time Explorer that could evolve into an effective  forecasting tool.

The prototype of Time Explorer was built using a collection of 1.8 million articles released by the New York Times stretching from 1987 to 2007 to stimulate research into new ways of exploring news coverage. Time Explorer generatesread more

A ‘second skin’ military fabric to repel chemical and biological agents

November 29, 2012

Polymer material (credit: Kenneth Carter/University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Military uniforms of the future may offer a new layer of critical protection to wearers, thanks to research by teams at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and several other institutions who are developing a nanotube-based fabric that repels chemical and biological agents.

The researchers say the fabric will be able to switch reversibly from a highly breathable state to a protective one inread more

A secure, private internet and cloud at the tactical edge

August 26, 2013

soldier

DARPA has developed a “private Internet” system that allows soldiers or marines on patrol to quickly share current intelligence information and imagery on their mobile devices, instead of waiting until they are back at camp to access a central server.

Called Content-Based Mobile Edge Networking (CBMEN), the program provides an alternative approach to the top-down focus of most military networks.… read more

A self-assembling protein nanocage

Could be used for targeted delivery of drugs, vaccine development, and electronic devices
June 10, 2014

This is a computational model of a successfully designed two-component protein nanocage with tetrahedral symmetry (credit: Dr. Vikram Mulligan)

University of Washington (UW) scientists have developed a new computational method for building new customized proteins that self-assemble (like biological systems) to revolutionize things like targeted delivery of drugs, vaccine development, and even electronic devices.

The work is based in the Rosetta macromolecular modeling package, which was developed by David Baker’s laboratory at the UW Institute for Protein Design, in collaboration… read more

A self-organizing thousand-robot swarm

August 15, 2014

The Kilobots, a swarm of one thousand simple but collaborative robots. (Credit: Mike Rubenstein and Science/AAAS.)

The first thousand-robot flash mob has assembled at Harvard University.

“Form a sea star shape,” directs a computer scientist, sending the command to 1,024 little bots simultaneously via an infrared light. The robots begin to blink at one another and then gradually arrange themselves into a five-pointed star. “Now form the letter K.”

The ‘K’ stands for Kilobots, the name given to these extremely simple robots, each just… read more

A self-powered cardiac pacemaker

June 26, 2014

This picture shows that a self-powered cardiac pacemaker is enabled by a flexible piezoelectric energy harvester (credit: KAIST)

A research team from the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) has developed a self-powered artificial cardiac pacemaker operated semi-permanently by a flexible piezoelectric nanogenerator.

Currently, pacemaker batteries last seven years on average, requiring frequent replacements, which may pose patients to a potential risk involved in medical procedures.

The nanogenerator directly stimulated a living rat’s heart using electrical energy converted from the small body… read more

A Self-Writing To-Do List

June 11, 2008

A new generation of free online schedulers uses natural-language processing to interpret spoken commands and ordinary written sentences to build calendars and personal organizers.

The organizers are part of an emerging trend away from graphical user interfaces (which can disrupt the work flow) to the ease and simplicity of text-based computing enhanced with natural-language processing.

A semiconductor DNA sequencer

July 22, 2011

Ion Torrent

Startup Ion Torrent has launched its new semiconductor-based sequencing machine — at $50,000, a comparatively inexpensive device.

Most advanced sequencing technologies rely on fluorescently tagged molecules and a microscope to sequence DNA. At the heart of Ion Torrent’s machine are sequencing chips that detect DNA sequences electronically.

This approach removes the need for expensive lasers and cameras. The chips are made in the same semiconductor fabs as computer… read more

A Sharper Future for Retinal Implants

February 2, 2011

hippocampalneuralcells

Research at the Italian Institute of Technology suggests a way to make higher-quality, more biocompatible retinal implants by integrating living neural cells with a soft organic polymer semiconductor. It could lead to a retinal implant that produces much clearer vision.

The researchers grew neural cells in a petri dish directly on top of the polymer. Light shined on the polymer activates the photodiodes, which stimulate individual neurons… read more

A Shift in the Debate Over Global Warming

April 6, 2008

With recent data showing an unexpected rise in global emissions and a decline in energy efficiency, a growing chorus of economists, scientists and students of energy policy are saying that whatever benefits a cap on greenhouse gas emissions yields, it will be too little and come too late.

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