science + technology news

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Neuroscientists reverse Alzheimer’s disease in mice

February 19, 2018

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Researchers from the Cleveland Clinic Lerner Research Institute have completely reversed the formation of amyloid plaques in the brains of mice with Alzheimer’s disease by gradually depleting an enzyme called BACE1. The procedure also improved the animals’ cognitive function.

The study, published February 14 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, raises hopes that drugs targeting this enzyme will be able to successfully treat Alzheimer’s disease in… read more

How to train a robot to do complex abstract thinking

February 16, 2018

Robot inspects cooler, ponders next step (credit: Intelligent Robot Lab / Brown University)

Robots are great at following programmed steps. But asking a robot to “move the green bottle from the cooler to the cupboard” would require it to have abstract representations of these things and actions, plus knowledge of its surroundings.

(“Hmm, which of those millions of pixels is a ‘cooler,’ whatever than means? How do I get inside it and also the ‘cupboard’? …”)

To help robots answer these… read more

Are you a cyborg?

How to generate electricity from your body, bioprint a brain, and “resleeve your stack.”
February 14, 2018

Vertebral chip (credit: Netflix)

Bioprinting a brain

A new bioprinting technique combines cryogenics (freezing) and 3D printing to create geometrical structures that are as soft (and complex) as the most delicate body tissues — mimicking the mechanical properties of organs such as the brain and lungs.

The idea: “Seed” porous scaffolds that can act as a template for tissue regeneration (from neuronal cells, for example), where damaged tissues are encouraged… read more

How to shine light deeper into the brain

Less-invasive way to stimulate the brain with light may lead to new treatments for neurological disorders
February 12, 2018

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An international team of researchers has developed a way to shine light at new depths in the brain. It may lead to development of new, non-invasive clinical treatments for neurological disorders and new research tools.

The new method extends the depth that optogenetics — a method for stimulating neurons with light — can reach. With optogenetics, blue-green light is used to turn on “light-gated ion channels” in neurons to stimulate… read more

AI algorithm with ‘social skills’ teaches humans how to collaborate

And a human-machine collaborative chatbot system
February 9, 2018

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An international team has developed an AI algorithm with social skills that has outperformed humans in the ability to cooperate with people and machines in playing a variety of two-player games.

The researchers, led by Iyad Rahwan, PhD, an MIT Associate Professor of Media Arts and Sciences, tested humans and the algorithm, called S# (“S sharp”), in three types of interactions: machine-machine, human-machine, and human-human. In most instances, machines programmed with… read more

Superconducting ‘synapse’ could enable powerful future neuromorphic supercomputers

Fires 200 million times faster than human brain, uses one ten-thousandth as much energy
February 7, 2018

NIST's artificial synapse ,designed for neuromorphic computing, mimics the operation of a switch between two neurons. One artificial synapse is located at the center of each X. The thick black vertical lines are electrical probes for testing. This chip is 1 square centimeter in size. (credit: NIST)

A superconducting “synapse” that “learns” like a biological system, operating like the human brain, has been built by researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

The NIST switch, described in an open-access paper in Science Advances, provides a missing link for neuromorphic (brain-like) computers, according to the researchers. Such “non-von Neumann architecture” future computers could significantly speed up analysis and decision-making… read more

Cancer ‘vaccine’ eliminates all traces of cancer in mice

Bodywide immune stimulation without adverse side effects
February 5, 2018

Effects of in situ vaccination with CpG and anti-OX40. Left: Mice genetically engineered to spontaneously develop breast cancers in all 10 of their mammary pads were injected into the first arising tumor (black arrow) with either a vehicle (inactive fluid) (Left) or with CpG and anti-OX40 (right). Pictures were taken on day 80. (credit: Idit Sagiv-Barfi et al./ Sci. Transl. Med.)

Injecting minute amounts of two immune-stimulating agents directly into solid tumors in mice was able to eliminate all traces of cancer in the animals — including distant, untreated metastases (spreading cancer locations), according to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine researchers.

The researchers believe this new “in situ vaccination” method could serve as a rapid and relatively inexpensive cancer therapy — one that is unlikely… read more

Penn researchers create first optical transistor comparable to an electronic transistor

February 2, 2018

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In an open-access paper published in Nature Communications, Ritesh Agarwal, a professor the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering and Applied Science, and his colleagues say that they have made significant progress in photonic (optical) computing by creating a prototype of a working optical transistor with properties similar to those of a conventional electronic transistor.*

Optical transistors, using… read more

The Princess Leia project: ‘volumetric’ 3D images that float in ‘thin air’

Making the 3D displays of science fiction real
January 31, 2018

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Inspired by the iconic Stars Wars scene with Princess Leia in distress, Brigham Young University engineers and physicists have created the “Princess Leia project” — a new technology for creating 3D “volumetric images” that float in the air and that you can walk all around and see from almost any angle.*

“Our group has a mission to take the 3D displays of science fiction and make them real,” said electrical… read more

MIT nanosystem delivers precise amounts of drugs directly to a tiny spot in the brain

... without interfering with the normal functions of the rest of the brain
January 28, 2018

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MIT researchers have developed a miniaturized system that can deliver tiny quantities of medicine to targeted brain regions as small as 1 cubic millimeter, with precise control over how much drug is given. The goal is to treat diseases that affect specific brain circuits without interfering with the normal functions of the rest of the brain.*

“We believe this tiny microfabricated device could have tremendous impact in understanding brain… read more

The Doomsday Clock is now two minutes before midnight

Scientists move clock ahead 30 seconds, closest to midnight since 1953
January 25, 2018

(credit: Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists)

Citing growing nuclear risks and unchecked climate dangers, the Doomsday Clock — the symbolic point of annihilation — is now two minutes to midnight, the closest the Clock has been since 1953 at the height of the Cold War, according to a statement today (Jan. 25) by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

“In 2017, world leaders failed to respond effectively to the looming threats of… read more

Ultra-thin ‘atomistor’ synapse-like memory storage device paves way for faster, smaller, smarter computer chips

January 24, 2018

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A team of electrical engineers at The University of Texas at Austin and scientists at Peking University has developed a one-atom-thick 2D “atomristor” memory storage device that may lead to faster, smaller, smarter computer chips.

The atomristor (atomic memristor) improves upon memristor (memory resistor) memory storage technology by using atomically thin nanomaterials (atomic sheets). (Combining memory and logic functions, similar to the synapses of biological… read more

An artificial synapse for future miniaturized portable ‘brain-on-a-chip’ devices

MIT engineers plan a fingernail-size chip that could replace a supercomputer
January 22, 2018

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MIT engineers have designed a new artificial synapse made from silicon germanium that can precisely control the strength of an electric current flowing across it.

In simulations, the researchers found that the chip and its synapses could be used to recognize samples of handwriting with 95 percent accuracy. The engineers say the new design, published today (Jan. 22) in the journal Nature Materials, is a major step toward building portable,… read more

Amazon’s store of the future opens

January 22, 2018

(credit: Amazon)

Amazon’s first Amazon Go store opened today in Seattle, automating most of the purchase, checkout, and payment steps associated with a retail transaction and replacing cash registers, cashiers, credit cards, self-checkout kiosks, RFID chips — and lines — with hundreds of small cameras, computer vision, deep-learning algorithms, and sensor fusion.

Just walk in (as long as you have the Amazon Go app and an Amazon.com account), scan a QR… read more

Remote-controlled DNA nanorobots could lead to the first nanorobotic production factory

"Five orders of magnitude [hundreds of thousands times] faster than previously reported DNA-driven robotic systems"
January 19, 2018

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By powering a self-assembling DNA nanorobotic arm with electric fields, German scientists have achieved precise nanoscale movement that is at least five orders of magnitude (hundreds of thousands times) faster than previously reported DNA-driven robotic systems, they suggest today (Jan. 19) in the journal Science.

DNA origami has emerged as a powerful tool to build precise structures. But now, “Kopperger et al. make an impressive stride in this direction… read more

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