science + technology news

The origin of the robot species

Robots "evolve" over 10 generations to perform a task twice as fast
August 12, 2015

mother robot-ft

Researchers led by the University of Cambridge have built a mother robot that can build its own children, test which one does best, and automatically use the results to inform the design of the next generation — passing down preferential traits automatically.

Without any human intervention or computer simulation, beyond the initial command to build a robot capable of movement, the mother created children constructed of between… read more

California passes driverless car bill

September 1, 2012

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Catching up with Nevada, it will be legal for autonomous cars to drive in California, probably within the next five years, if Gov. Brown signs SB 1298, just passed by the California Senate, the San Jose Mercury reports.

The bill charges the DMV by January 2015 with determining standards for vehicles and rules.

Automakers would have to get their vehicles approved by the state, and then licensed… read more

A paper-thin flexible tablet computer

January 9, 2013

papertab

A flexible paper computer developed at Queen’s University in collaboration with Plastic Logic and Intel Labs could one day revolutionize the way people work with tablets and computers.

The PaperTab tablet looks and feels just like a sheet of paper. However, it is fully interactive with a flexible, high-resolution 10.7” plastic display developed by Plastic Logic, a flexible touchscreen, and powered by the second generation… read more

Ray Kurzweil reveals plans for ‘linguistically fluent’ Google software

Paper outlines path to understand human language inspired by the hierarchical structure of the human neocortex
August 4, 2017

Smart Reply (credit: Google Research)

Ray Kuzweil, a director of engineering at Google, reveals plans for a future version of Google’s “Smart Reply” machine-learning email software (and more) in a Wired article by Tom Simonite published Wednesday (Aug. 2, 2017).

Running on mobile Gmail and Google Inbox, Smart Reply suggests up to three replies to an email message, saving typing time or giving you ideas for a better reply.

Smarter autocompleteread more

iRobot files patent application for autonomous all-in-one 3D printing, milling, drilling and finishing robot

January 28, 2013

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Well, just when you thought 3D printing was finally putting you back in charge of creating your own stuff, along comes iRobot Corporation with a U.S. patent application for a “Robotic Fabricator.”

It’s conceived as a completely autonomous all-in-one product fabrication robot that handles manufacturing (including 3D printing) and all the post-printing work, from seed component to mature product, 3Ders reports.

A… read more

A low-cost water splitter that runs on an ordinary AAA battery

Could allow for true zero-emissions fuel-cell vehicles and save hydrogen producers billions of dollars in electricity costs
August 22, 2014

Stanford scientists have developed a low-cost device that uses an ordinary AAA battery to split water into oxygen and hydrogen gas. Gas bubbles are produced by electrodes made of inexpensive nickel and iron.

A cheap, emissions-free device that uses a 1.5-volt AAA battery to split water into hydrogen and oxygen by electrolysis has been developed by scientists at Stanford University.

Unlike other water splitters that use precious-metal catalysts, the electrodes in the Stanford device are made of inexpensive, abundant nickel and iron.

“This is the first time anyone has used non-precious metal catalysts to split water at a voltage… read more

Further proof for controversial quantum computer

April 29, 2013

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Is the world’s only commercial quantum computer really a quantum device, or a just regular computer in disguise? Controversy has long swirled around the computer produced by D-Wave, a company based near Vancouver, Canada.

Now a paper published on the arXiv preprint server takes a step forward in showing that it really does operate on a quantum level, Nature News Blog reports.
In… read more

IBM developing 150-petaflops supercomputers for national labs

New "data-centric" architecture deals with Big Data by embedding compute power everywhere data resides
November 14, 2014

One trillion connected objects and devices on the planet will be generating data by 2015 --- currently 2.5 gigabytes per day (credit: IBM)

IBM today (Nov. 14) announced that the U.S. Department of Energy has awarded IBM contracts valued at $325 million to develop and deliver “the world’s most advanced ‘data-centric’ supercomputing systems” at Lawrence Livermore and Oak Ridge National Laboratories to advance innovation and discovery in science, engineering and national security.”

The world is generating more than 2.5 billion gigabytes of “big data” every day, according to IBM’s 2013 annual report, requiring… read more

Mapping brain circuits for specific functions

New way to image brain-cell activity could shed light on psychiatric disorders
October 19, 2012

MIT neuroscientists used calcium imaging to label these pyramidal cells in the brain (credit: Qian Chen/MIT)

A team led by MIT neuroscientists has developed a way to monitor how brain cells coordinate with each other to control specific behaviors, such as initiating movement or detecting an odor.

The researchers’ new imaging technique, based on the detection of calcium ions in neurons, could help them map the brain circuits that perform such functions.

It could also provide new insights into the… read more

Berkeley Lab scientists record first inside look at carbon-capture molecular structure

November 26, 2013

Mg-MOF-74 is an open metal site MOF whose porous crystalline structure could enable it to serve as a storage vessel for capturing and containing the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants. (National Academy of Sciences)

Researchers with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have recorded the first electronic structure observations of the adsorption of carbon dioxide inside a metal-organic framework (MOF).

The “Mg-MOF-74″ MOF’s porous crystalline structure could enable it to serve as a storage vessel for capturing and containing the carbon dioxide emitted from coal-burning power plants.

MOFs are molecular systems consisting of a metal oxide center surrounded by organic… read more

IBM Watson AI XPRIZE announced at TED

February 17, 2016

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The IBM Watson AI XPRIZE, a Cognitive Computing Competition was announced on the TED Stage today (Feb 17) by XPRIZE Foundation chairman Peter Diamandis and IBM Watson general manager David Kenny.

It’s a $5 million competition challenging teams from around the world to develop and demonstrate how humans can collaborate with powerful cognitive technologies to tackle some of the world’s grand challenges.

According to IBM, “the… read more

How to identify and predict human activities from video

October 30, 2012

minds_eye_cmu

A video shows a woman carrying a box into a building.  Later, it shows her leaving the building without it. What was she doing?

Carnegie Mellon University’s (CMU) Mind’s Eye program is creating intelligent software that will recognize human activities in video and predict what might happen next. It will also flag unusual events and deduce actions that may be occurring off-camera.

Automating the time-consuming job of… read more

Hawking offers new solution to ‘black hole information paradox’

New hope if you fall into a black hole
August 27, 2015

Nobel physics laureate Gerard 't Hooft of Utrecht University, the Netherlands, confers with Stephen Hawking at a weeklong conference at KTH Royal Institute of Technology on the information loss paradox. (photo credit: Håkan Lindgren)

Addressing a current controversy in physics about information in black holes, “I propose that the information is stored not in the interior of the black hole as one might expect, but on its boundary, the event horizon.”

The event horizon is a boundary around a black hole beyond which events cannot affect an outside observer, also known as “the point of no return” — where gravitational pull… 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

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

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