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Obama and Romney tackle 14 top science questions

September 6, 2012

TopScienceQuestionsAnswers2012

Scientific American partnered with grassroots organization ScienceDebate.org earlier this summer to encourage the two main presidential candidates — Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — to answer 14 questions on some of the biggest scientific and technological challenges facing the nation. President Obama and Governor Romney have now answered these Top American Science Questions.

Obama or Romney? Face-reading software monitors viewers’ responses to debate

November 5, 2012

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New Scientist asked readers to take part in an online project designed to give a more fine-grained view of the public’s reactions to politics.

About 80 readers watched clips from the third and final presidential debate while face-reading software recorded subtle emotional cues via webcams. Developed by Affectiva of Waltham, Massachusetts, the software tracked six categories of expression: smiles, surprise,… read more

Cheap, easy technique to snip DNA could revolutionize gene therapy

January 8, 2013

The bacterial enzyme Cas9 is the engine of RNA-programmed genome engineering in human cells (credit: Jennifer Doudna/UC Berkeley)

A simple, precise, and inexpensive method for cutting DNA to insert genes into human cells could transform genetic medicine, making routine what now are expensive, complicated and rare procedures for replacing defective genes to fix genetic disease or even cure AIDS.

Discovered last year, two new papers published last week in the journal Science Express demonstrate that the technique also works in human cells.

“The ability… read more

Earth-sized planets in habitable zones are more common than previously thought

March 14, 2013

(Credit: Chester Harman)

The number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy is greater than previously thought, according to a  new analysis by a Penn State researcher, and some of those planets are likely lurking around nearby stars.

“We now estimate that if we were to look at 10 of the nearest small stars we would find about four potentially habitable planets,” said Ravi Kopparapu, an Evan… read more

A fatigue detection device to help keep your eyes on the road

July 17, 2013

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An EPFL student, Peugeot Citroën, has developed a video analysis algorithm able to estimate the level of a driver’s fatigue based on the degree of eyelid closure and has built a prototype to test it in real driving conditions.

Nearly a third of highway accidents are caused by fatigue. Nowadays, there exist several attention detection systems for drivers, such as detection of loss of vehicle… read more

Proposed satellite would beam solar power to earth

April 9, 2012

Space-based energy factory, SPS-ALPHA --- the Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array (credit: John Mankins)

A NASA-funded new approach to power-beaming solar-power satellites has been developed by John Mankins, who led the first NASA solar-power-satellite development team in the 90s.

Called the SPS-ALPHA (Solar Power Satellite via Arbitrarily Large PHased Array), this “first practical solar-power satellite concept” uses a novel “biomimetic” approach.

Mankins said that this project would make possible the construction of huge platforms from tens of thousands of small elements that can deliver… read more

Offshore wind farms could tame hurricanes before they reach land, Stanford-led study says

Wind farm could reduce peak hurricane wind speeds by up to 92 mph and decrease storm surge by up to 79 percent
February 26, 2014

Offshore wind farm (credit: Seimens)

Computer simulations by Stanford Professor Mark Z. Jacobson have shown that offshore wind farms with thousands of wind turbines could have sapped the power of three real-life hurricanes, significantly decreasing their winds and accompanying storm surge, and possibly preventing billions of dollars in damages.

For the past 24 years,  Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford, has been developing a complex computer model… read more

Makerbot Replicator 2 review

September 20, 2012

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The Makerbot Replicator 2, a second generation of MakerBot’s wildly popular Replicator 3D printer, is now faster, quieter, and more rigid than the original, Make reports.

The Replicator now sports a sleek modern look with an all-black sheet metal frame and PVC side panels that are removable, customizable, and allow for easy cleaning of any excess material.

A larger, more responsive LCD panel on the front… read more

Genome hunters go after martian DNA

October 18, 2012

Mars

Two high-profile entrepreneurs say they want to put a DNA sequencing machine on the surface of Mars in a bid to prove the existence of extraterrestrial life.

In what could become a race for the first extraterrestrial genome, researcher J. Craig Venter said Tuesday that his Maryland academic institute and company, Synthetic Genomics, would develop a machine capable of sequencing and beaming back DNA data… read more

UC Berkeley joins edX

July 25, 2012

edx_announcement

EdX, the online learning initiative founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and launched in May, announced today the addition of the University of California, Berkeley to its platform.

UC Berkeley will offer two courses on edX this Fall — on AI and software — and the university will also serve as the inaugural chair of the to-be-formed “X University” Consortium.… read more

First micro-structure atlas of the human brain completed

October 23, 2012

Rendering of long white-matter fiber bundles (credit: CONNECT)

European scientists have built the first atlas of white-matter microstructure in the human brain in a project called CONNECT (Consortium of neuroimagers for the non-invasive exploration of brain connectivity and tracts).

The new atlas combines 3D images from the MRI scans of 100 brains of volunteers. To achieve this, the scientists developed advanced diffusion… read more

Human brains share a consistent genetic blueprint and possess enormous biochemical complexity

First extensive analysis of Allen Human Brain Atlas has implications for basic understanding of the human brain and for medicine
September 20, 2012

3D rendering from the Allen Human Brain Atlas

The same basic functional elements are used throughout the cortex and understanding how one area works in detail will uncover fundamentals that apply to the other areas as well, scientists at the Allen Institute for Brain Science reported in the latest issue of the journal Nature.

Human brains share a consistent genetic blueprint, and possess enormous biochemical complexity, they said, based on the first deep and large-scale… read more

Why 3D printing will go the way of virtual reality

January 26, 2012

A 3D-printed object. (credit: Carter West Engineering, Inc.)

The notion that 3D printing will on any reasonable time scale become a “mature” technology that can reproduce all the goods on which we rely is to engage in a complete denial of the complexities of modern manufacturing, unless you’d like everything made out of plastic, says Technology Review | Mim’s Bits blog.

Microsoft’s Cortana to battle Siri

September 13, 2013

Cortana (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is preparing a Siri-like personal voice assistant based on Bing, code-named Cortana, for Windows Phone,  eWeek reports. (Cortana is a holographic AI construct that figures prominently in the Halo video game series.)

Like its Halo counterpart, Cortana “will be able to learn and adapt, thanks to machine-learning technology and the ‘Satori’ knowledge repository powering Bing,” according to ZDNet’s Mary Jane Foley.

Satori, which… read more

An electric car that actually goes far?

July 20, 2012

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Researchers have made the first stable lithium-air batteries, Science NOW reports. They may one day give electric cars a driving range similar to today’s gas guzzlers.

Lithium-air batteries have potential to store 10 times more energy than the best lithium-ion batteries on the market today, but have been unstable, falling apart after a few charges.

So researchers at the University of St Andrews in the United… read more

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