science + technology news

A machine-learning system that trains itself by surfing the web

And so it begins ...
December 8, 2016

newspaper

MIT researchers have designed a new machine-learning system that can learn by itself to extract text information for statistical analysis when available data is scarce.

This new “information extraction” system turns machine learning on its head. It works like humans do. When we run out of data in a study (say, differentiating between fake and real news), we simply search the Internet for more data, and then… read more

A computerized house that generates as much energy as it uses

NIST unveils net-zero energy residential test facility to improve testing of energy-efficient technologies
September 18, 2012

NIST Net Zero Energy Residential Test Facility

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has unveiled a laboratory in the form of a typical suburban home, designed to demonstrate that a family of four can generate as much energy as it uses in a year.

The two-story, four-bedroom, three-bath “Net-Zero Energy Residential Test Facility“ was built to U.S. Green Building Council LEED Platinum standards — the highest standard for sustainable… read more

Easing brain fatigue with a walk in the park

April 3, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

An innovative new study from Scotland confirms the observation that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park, The New York Times reports.

Researchers have long theorized that green spaces are calming, requiring less of our so-called directed mental attention than busy, urban streets do, but it had not been possible to study the brains of people while they were actually outside, moving… read more

1 in 8 chance of catastrophic solar megastorm by 2020

March 4, 2012

Solar flares

The Earth has a roughly 12 percent chance of experiencing an enormous megaflare erupting from the sun in the next decade,  according to space physicist Pete Riley, senior scientist at Predictive Science in San Diego, California, writing n Space Weather on Feb. 23.

This event could potentially cause trillions of dollars’ worth of damage and take up to a decade to recover from,  according to a 2008 report from the National… read more

Merging nanoelectronics into 3D engineered human tissues

Researchers grow cyborg tissues with embedded nanoelectronics
August 28, 2012

3D reconstructed confocal microscopy image of synthetic 3D neural tissue with red corresponding to neurons and green/blue corresponding to the macroporous nanoelectronic circuitry seamlessly innervating the neural tissue (credit:  Tian, et al/Harvard University)

Harvard scientists have created a type of “cyborg” tissue for the first time by embedding a three-dimensional network of functional, biocompatible, nanoscale wires into engineered human tissues.

The research team led by Charles M. Lieber, the Mark Hyman Jr. Professor of Chemistry at Harvard, and Daniel Kohane, a Harvard Medical School professor in the Departmentread more

Assembling big structures out of small ultralight pieces

"Can you 3-D print an airplane?" question leads to major design breakthrough
August 19, 2013

Assemblies of the cellular composite material are seen from different perspectives, showing the repeating "cuboct" lattice structure, made from many identical flat cross-shaped pieces.<br />
PHOTO COURTESY OF KENNETH CHEUNG

MIT researchers have developed a lightweight structure whose tiny blocks can be snapped together much like the bricks of a child’s construction toy.

The new material, the researchers say, could revolutionize the assembly of airplanes, spacecraft, and even larger structures, such as dikes and levees.

The new approach to construction is described in a paper appearing in the journal Science, co-authored by postdoc Kenneth Cheung and… read more

The future of cryonics debate between physicist Michio Kaku and Alcor CEO Max More

December 22, 2013

ALCOR2

In response to a question, “What are the practical applications of cryogenics today, and what potential improvements can we expect 20 to 30 years down the line?” Michio Kaku, PhD, replied with a critique.

Max More, PhD, CEO of Alcor Life Extension Foundation, offered this response, noting that cryonics is “affordable by regular people. Ice does not form inside cells… read more

Homeland Security looking for (more than) a few good drones

September 28, 2012

Reaper Drone (Credit: USAF)

DHS to test unmanned aircraft for variety of applications.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security this week issued a call for unmanned systems makers to participate in a program that will ultimately determine their safety and performance for use in first responder, law enforcement and border security situations, Network World Layer 8 reports.

In a twist that will certainly raise some eyebrows,  the program’s results  of… read more

‘Nanozyme’ nanoparticles can be programmed to target different diseases

July 19, 2012

Nanozymes (colloidal nanoparticles with a diameter of 48 nm, with a core/shell structure consisting of a 13-nm gold nanoparticle core and a shell of single-stranded DNA oligonucleotides

University of Florida researchers have moved a step closer to treating diseases on a cellular level by creating a nanoparticle that can be programmed to shut down the genetic production line that cranks out disease-related proteins.

In laboratory tests, these newly created nanoparticles eradicated most of a hepatitis C virus infection. The programmable nature of the particle makes it also potentially useful against diseases such… read more

The future of space

March 9, 2012

Dragon and Falcon 9 Second Stage, post Second Stage Separation Event (credit: NASA)

In the new book Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, Neil deGrasse Tyson says America is at a critical moment for future space exploration, as he explained to The Atlantic.

Give NASA the money it needs, he argues, and the agency will stimulate the economy and inspire students to pursue innovative, ambitious projects. (Say, for example, a way to thwart a wayward asteroid that could… read more

The highest-resolution immersive visualization facility ever built

November 21, 2012

RealityDeck

Stony Brook University (SBU) recently unveiled its new Reality Deck, with 1.5 billion pixels total on 416 super-high-resolution screens in a four-walled surround-view theater — the highest-resolution  immersive display ever built — and driven by a 220 TFLOPs graphic supercomputer.

Its purpose and primary design principle is to enable scientists, engineers, and physicians to tackle current problems that require the visualization of vast amounts of… read more

Brain cells made from urine

December 11, 2012

neurons_from_urine

Some of the waste that humans flush away every day could become a powerful source of brain cells to study disease, and may even one day be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons, Nature News reports.

The method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms… read more

More-efficient solar-powered steam

Can convert 85 percent of incoming solar energy into steam, eliminating need for complex, costly systems to highly concentrate sunlight
July 22, 2014

solar steam generator - ft

A new carbon-based material structure developed at MIT generates steam from solar energy.

The structure — a layer of graphite flakes and an underlying carbon foam — is a porous, insulating material structure that floats on water.

When sunlight hits the structure’s surface, it creates a hotspot in the graphite, drawing water up through the material’s pores, where it evaporates as steam. The brighter the light,… read more

Following Sandy, DHS seeks security ‘Cyber Reserve’

November 3, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto)

The damage to the electrical grid from Superstorm Sandy is just a taste of what could happen from a major cyberattack, says Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano, CSO Security and Risk reports.

And a DHS task force said this week that one way to minimize that kind of risk is to recruit a “Cyber Reserve” of computer security pros that could be… read more

Stumped by a problem? The ‘generic parts technique’ technique unsticks you

March 8, 2012

CocaCola

University of Massachusetts psychologist Dr. Tony McCaffrey has developed a systematic way of overcoming “functional fixedness” (the tendency to fixate on the common use of an object or its parts, hindering people from solving problems). He calls it the “generic parts technique” (GPT).

He found that people trained in GPT solved eight problems 67 percent more often than those who weren’t trained, and the trained group… read more

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