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The BRAIN Initiative: BAM or BUST?

April 9, 2013

President Barack Obama is introduced by Dr. Francis Collins, Director, National Institutes of Health, at the BRAIN Initiative event in the East Room of the White House, April 2, 2013 (credit: Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

What is the BRAIN* Project about? What are its goals?

“Well, nobody knows, actually. I certainly don’t know. But it appears that no one else knows either.” So says Scicurious, a PhD in Physiology and currently a postdoc in biomedical research, on her The Scicurious Brain blog on Scientific American.

“Basically, BRAIN is a very fancy initiative, with a fancy name … and so far,… read more

Are we taking AI seriously enough?

AI success would be the biggest event in history, but maybe the last, warn Hawking, Russell, Tegmark, and Wilczek.
May 5, 2014

MQ-9 Reaper unmanned combat air vehicle (credit: General Atomics)

“Dismissing the notion of highly intelligent machines as mere science fiction,” as portrayed in current movies, would be a mistake, and “potentially our worst mistake in history,” write leading scientists Stephen Hawking, Stuart Russell, Max Tegmark, and Frank Wilczek, in The Independent.

AI research is now progressing rapidly, and “will probably pale against what the coming decades will bring, the scientists suggest. “Success in creating AI would be… read more

Temporary tattoos could make ‘electronic telepathy,’ ‘telekinesis’ possible

Temporary electronic tattoos could soon help people fly drones with only thought and talk seemingly telepathically without speech over smartphones
February 21, 2013

(Credit: mc10)

The devices are less than 100 microns thick, the average diameter of a human hair. They consist of circuitry embedded in a layer or rubbery polyester that allow them to stretch, bend and wrinkle. They are barely visible when placed on skin, making them easy to conceal from others.

The devices can detect electrical signals linked with brain waves, and incorporate solar cells for power and antennas that allow… read more

Formation of carbon-based life leave little room for error

March 15, 2013

Light quark mass determines carbon and oxygen production and the viability of carbon-based life (credit: Dean Lee and NASA)

Life as we know it is based primarily on the elements carbon and oxygen.

Now a team of physicists, including one from North Carolina State University, is looking at the conditions necessary to the formation of those two elements in the universe.

They’ve found that when it comes to supporting life, the universe leaves very little margin for error.

Both carbon and oxygen… read more

3D-printed rocket parts

November 11, 2012

NASA_M2_Cusing_Machine

NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center is using ”selective laser melting” (SLM) to create intricate metal parts for America’s Space Launch System (SLS) heavy-lift rocket, saving millions in manufacturing costs.

SLM is similar to 3-D printing (additive printing) and is the future of manufacturing, says Ken Cooper, advanced manufacturing team lead at the Marshall Center.

“This machine takes metal powder and uses a high-energy laser to… read more

Google announces Calico, a new company focused on health and well-being

September 18, 2013

calico-google

Google announced Calico, a new company that will focus on health and well-being, in particular the challenge of aging and associated diseases. Arthur D. Levinson, Chairman and former CEO of Genentech and Chairman of Apple, will be Chief Executive Officer and a founding investor.

Announcing this new investment, Larry Page, Google CEO said: “Illness and aging affect all our families. With some longer… read more

Who lives longest?

March 26, 2013

(Credit: World Life Expectancy)

Life expectancy is an average, and it fluctuates with age as the risks we face change throughout our lifetimes. Both those facts make it a frequently misunderstood statistic, The New York Times reports.

High infant-mortality rates depress the figure substantially. This can lead contemporary observers to the false conclusion that most humans died quite young, even in the not-so-distant past.

Before the Upper Paleolithic, early humans really… read more

Obama seeking to boost study of human brain

February 18, 2013

brain-rays

The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics, The New York Times reports.

The project, which the administration has been looking to… read more

Musk announces plans to build ‘one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world’ and send people to Mars in ten years

"Solar panels, paired with batteries to enable power at night, can produce several orders of magnitude more electricity than is consumed by the entirety of human civilization" --- Elon Musk
June 18, 2014

Utility-scale solar farm (credit: Silevo)

Elon Musk, chairman of SolarCity, America’s largest solar power provider, announced Tuesday with other SolarCity executives that the company plans to acquire Silevo, a solar panel technology and manufacturing company whose modules have “demonstrated a unique combination of high energy output and low cost.”

“Our intent is to combine what we believe is fundamentally the best photovoltaic technology with massive economies of scale to… read more

Brain Activity Map Project is futile, say some scientists, others enthused

Complete human brain generates about 300,000 petabytes of data each year
February 28, 2013

brain-rays

In setting the nation on a course to map the active human brain, President Obama may have picked a challenge even more daunting than ending the war in Afghanistan or finding common ground with his Republican opponents, The New York Times reports.

Many neuroscientists are skeptical that a multiyear, multibillion dollar effort to unlock the brain’s mysteries will succeed.“I believe the scientific paradigm… read more

Chatbot ‘Eugene Goostman’ passes Turing Test, Warwick claims

June 9, 2014

Eugene

The Turing Test was passed for the first time by a chatbot called “Eugene Goostman” on Saturday by convincing 33% of the human judges that it was human, according to Professor Kevin Warwick, a Visiting Professor at the University of Reading and Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Research at Coventry University, in a statement.

The Turing Test, proposed by mathematician and code-breaker Alan Turing in a 1950 paper,… read more

Bringing a virtual brain to life

March 20, 2013

(Credit: Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne)

In 2009, Dr. Henry Markram conceived of the Human Brain Project, a sprawling and controversial initiative of more than 150 institutions around the world that he hopes will bring scientists together to realize his dream, as The New York Times notes.

In January, the European Union raised the stakes by awarding the project a 10-year grant of up to $1.3 billion — an unheard-of sum… read more

When death becomes optional

March 15, 2012

The year is 2032. You have just celebrated your 80th birthday and you have some tough decisions ahead. You can either keep repairing your current body or move into a new one.

The growing of “blank” bodies has become all the rage, and by using your own genetic material, body farmers can even recreate your own face at age 20.

In just 20 years, this is anread more

Let’s make genetically modified food open-source

July 10, 2013

March_Against_Monsanto_Vancouver

If Monsanto is the Microsoft of food supply, perhaps the time has come for the agricultural equivalent of Linux, the open-source operating system that made computer programming a communal effort, Slate suggests.

“GMO agriculture relies on the relatively new science of bioinformatics (a mixture of bio- and information science), which means that DNA sequences look a lot more like software code than a vegetable garden,” says Slate.… read more

First message sent to Gliese 526, 17.6 light-years away

June 18, 2013

Jamesburg_Earth_Station

At 9 PM EDT Monday, June 17 at a press event in New York, the Lone Signal team announced the transmission of the first interstellar beam (message).

It was transmitted from the giant ex-NASA Jamesburg dish in Carmel, California to the Gliese 526 solar system, 17.6 light-years away.

Simultaneously, at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, as he started his welcome talk to… read more

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