science + technology news

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Manipulating silicon atoms to create future ultra-fast, ultra-low-power chip technology

February 17, 2017

Artist’s illustration of a study to create a future electronic circuit at the atomic level, showing interaction between tip and silicon-surface atoms (credit: Wolkow Lab)

Imagine a hybrid silicon-molecular computer that uses one thousand times less energy or a cell phone battery that lasts weeks at a time.

University of Alberta scientists, headed by University of Alberta physics professor Robert Wolkow, have taken a major step in that direction by visualizing and geometrically patterning silicon at the atomic level — using an innovative  atomic-force microscopy* (AFM) technique. The goal: chip technology that performs… read more

How to build your own bio-bot

Building blocks for the biomachines of the future
February 14, 2017

Bio-bot design inspired by the muscle-tendon-bone complex found in the human body, with 3D-printed flexible skeleton. Optical stimulation of the muscle tissue (orange), which is genetically engineered to contract in response to blue light, makes the bio-bot walk across a surface in the direction of the light. (credit: Ritu Raman et al./Nature Protocols)

For the past several years, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have reverse-engineered native biological tissues and organs — creating tiny walking “bio-bots” powered by muscle cells and controlled with electrical and optical pulses.

Now, in an open-access cover paper in Nature Protocols, the researchers are sharing a protocol with engineering details for their current generation of millimeter-scale soft robotic bio-bots*.

Using 3D-printed skeletons, these… read more

Terahertz wireless could lead to fiber-optics speed in-flight and mobile metropolitan internet

February 14, 2017

Terahertz wireless links to spaceborne satellites could make gigabit-per-second connection speeds available to anyone anytime, anywhere on the face of the earth, on the ground or in flight (credit: Fujishima et al./Hiroshima University)

Hiroshima University researchers and associates have developed a terahertz* (THz) transmitter capable of transmitting digital data over a single channel at a speed of 105 gigabits per second (Gbps), and demonstrated the technology at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) 2017 conference last week.

For perspective, that’s more than 100 times faster than the fastest (1 Gbps) internet connection in the U.S. or more than 3,000… read more

Scientists create first 3-D synchronized-beating heart tissue

February 8, 2017

3-D tissue imaged using 3-D fluorescent imaging, where many cells laid down sequentially to make attached layers of alternating cell types like membranes in the human body. (credit: York University)

York University scientists have created the first in vitro (lab) 3D heart tissue made from three different types of cardiac cells that beat in synchronized harmony. It may lead to better understanding of cardiac health and improved treatments.*

The researchers constructed the heart tissue from three free-beating rat cell types: contractile cardiac muscle cells, connective tissue cells, and vascular cells. No external scaffold was used and the… read more

New machine-learning algorithms may revolutionize drug discovery — and our understanding of life

February 8, 2017

A new set of machine learning algorithms developed at U of T Scarborough that can generate 3-D structures of tiny protein molecules may revolutionize the development of drug therapies for a range of diseases. (credit: Structura Biotechnology Inc)

A new set of machine-learning algorithms developed by researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough can generate 3D structures of nanoscale protein molecules that could not be achieved in the past. The algorithms may revolutionize the development of new drug therapies for a range of diseases and may even lead to better understand how life works at the atomic level, the researchers say.

Drugs work by binding to a… read more

First stable semisynthetic organism created

Scientists hope to "impart life with new forms and functions"
February 3, 2017

DNA --- now with a new base pair! (credit: Romesberg Lab)

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have developed the first stable semisynthetic organism — a bacterium with two new synthetic bases (called X and Y) added to the four natural bases (A, T, C, and G) that every living organism possesses. Adding two more letters to expand the genetic alphabet can be used to make novel proteins for new therapeutics, according to the researchers.

All life… read more

Beneficial AI conference develops ‘Asilomar AI principles’ to guide future AI research

February 3, 2017

Beneficial AI ft

At the Beneficial AI 2017 conference, January 5–8 held at a conference center in Asilomar, California — a sequel to the 2015 AI Safety conference in Puerto Rico — the Future of Life Institute (FLI) brought together more 100 AI researchers from academia and industry and thought leaders in economics, law, ethics, and philosophy to… read more

Brain-computer interface enables completely locked-in patients to communicate for the first time

Reveal they are happy and want to live
February 2, 2017

NIRS/EEG brain computer interface system for sensing "yes" or "no" thoughts, shown on a model (credit: Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering)

Four advanced ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) patients who were “completely locked in” (totally unable to communicate) for years have suddenly broken through in a lab at the Wyss Center for Bio and Neuroengineering in Geneva, Switzerland — communicating a “yes” or “no” by simply thinking the answers.

The brain–computer interface (BCI) system achieved this remarkable breakthrough by using functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) to measure changes in blood… read more

Carnegie Mellon AI beats top poker pros — a first

Another major milestone in artificial intelligence
January 31, 2017

"Brains vs Artificial Intelligence" competition at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh (credit: Carnegie Mellon University)

Libratus, an AI developed by Carnegie Mellon University, has defeated four of the world’s best professional poker players in a marathon 120,000 hands of Heads-up, No-Limit Texas Hold’em poker played over 20 days, CMU announced today (Jan. 31) — joining Deep Blue (for chess), Watson, and Alpha Go as major milestones in AI.

Libratus led the pros by a collective $1,766,250 in chips.* The tournament was held… read more

Mayo Clinic researchers find mentally stimulating activities after age 70 associated with lower new cognitive-impairment risk

January 31, 2017

Mentally stimulating activities in late life found associated with decreased risk of mild cognitive impairment (credit: Mayo Clinic)

Mayo Clinic researchers have found that engaging in mentally stimulating activities, even after age 70, was associated with decreased risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment (the intermediate stage between normal cognitive aging and dementia) over an average study period of 4 years.

The study discovered that for cognitively normal people 70 or older, the risk of new-onset mild cognitive impairment decreased by 30 percent with computer use,… read more

Soft robotic sleeve developed to aid failing hearts

Could be implanted to restore blood circulation
January 27, 2017

A soft robotic sleeve placed around the heart in a pig model of acute heart failure. The actuators embedded in the sleeve support heart function by mimicking the outer heart muscles that induce the heart to beat. (credit: Harvard SEAS)

An international team of scientists has developed a soft robotic sleeve that can be implanted on the external surface of the heart to restore blood circulation in pigs (and possibly humans in the future) whose hearts have stopped beating.

The device is a silicone-based system with two layers of actuators: one that squeezes circumferentially and one that squeezes diagonally, both designed to mimic the movement of healthy hearts when… read more

Scientists use stem cells to create human/pig chimera embryos

Research promises to test therapeutic drugs, possibly grow transplantable organs
January 27, 2017

This photograph shows injection of human iPS cells into a pig blastocyst. A laser beam (green circle with a red cross inside) was used to perforate an opening to the outer membrane (Zona Pellucida) of the pig blastocyst to allow easy access of an injection needle delivering human iPS cells. (credit: Courtesy of Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte)

In an open-access paper published online January 26, 2017 in the journal CellSalk Institute researchers report breakthroughs on multiple fronts in the race to integrate stem cells from one species into the early-stage development of another species (or chimeras**).

Scientists are still struggling to coax stem cells growing in Petri dishes to become fully functional specialized adult cells, the researchers report. “The ultimate goal… read more

These may be the last glasses you will ever need to buy

January 27, 2017

Early prototype of 'smart glasses' with liquid-based lenses that can automatically adjust the focus on what a person is seeing, whether it is far away or close up. The lenses are placed in battery-powered frames that can automatically adjust the focal length of the lenses based on what the wearer is looking at. Researchers expect to have smaller, lighter frames with the technology in as early as three years. (credit: Dan Hixson/University of Utah College of Engineering)

Don’t throw away your bifocals or multiple glasses yet, but those days might soon be over. A team led by University of Utah engineers has created “smart glasses” with liquid-based lenses that can automatically adjust the focus on what you’re seeing, at any distance.

They’ve created eyeglass lenses made of glycerin, a thick colorless liquid, enclosed by flexible rubber-like membranes in the front and back. The rear… read more

Scientists discover precise DNA sequence code critical for turning genes on

Geneticists solve a decades-long puzzle about how genes are turned on to make cellular proteins
January 27, 2017

human Initiator ft

Molecular biologists at the University of California, San Diego (UC San Diego) have discovered a short sequence of DNA that is essential for turning on (expressing proteins) more than half of all human genes — an achievement that should provide scientists with a better understanding of how human genes are regulated.

Knowing what turns on genes is important. Each human cell contains about six feet of DNA, a double-helical molecular… read more

A deep learning algorithm outperforms some board-certified dermatologists in diagnosis of skin cancer

January 25, 2017

A dermatologist uses a dermatoscope, a type of handheld microscope, to look at skin. Computer scientists at Stanford have created an artificially intelligent diagnosis algorithm for skin cancer that matched the performance of board-certified dermatologists. (Image credit: Matt Young)

Deep learning has been touted for its potential to enhance the diagnosis of diseases, and now a team of researchers at Stanford has developed a deep-learning algorithm that may make this vision a reality for skin cancer.*

The researchers, led by Dr. Sebastian Thrun, an adjunct professor at the Stanford Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, reported in the January 25 issue of Nature that their deep convolutional neural network (CNN) algorithm… read more

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