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Converting algae to crude oil — a million-year natural process — in minutes

December 20, 2013

Algae slurry

Engineers at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have created a continuous chemical process that produces useful crude oil from harvested algae in minutes, described in the journal Algae Research.

Utah-based Genifuel Corp. has licensed the technology and is working with an industrial partner to build a pilot plant using the technology.

How to create ‘instant oil’

A slurry of… read more

Sea level rise ‘locking in’ quickly, cities threatened

July 30, 2013

climate_change_threatens_cities

Measurements tell us that global average sea level is currently rising by about 1 inch per decade. But in an invisible shadow process, our long-term sea level rise commitment or “lock-in” — the sea level rise we don’t see now, but which carbon emissions and warming have locked in for later years — is growing 10 times faster, and this growth rate is accelerating, writes Benread more

Robot learns ‘self-awareness’

August 24, 2012

nico-mirror.streams_desktop_medium

Yale roboticists have programmed Nico, a robot, to be able to recognize itself in a mirror.

Using knowledge that it has learned about itself, Nico is able to use a mirror as an instrument for spatial reasoning, allowing it to accurately determine where objects are located in space based on their reflections, rather than naively believing them to exist behind the mirror.

Nico’s programmer, roboticist Justin Hart,… read more

The Singularity Is Near movie to be available this Summer

June 18, 2012

TheSingularityIsNearMoviePromo

The Singularity Is Near: a True Story About the Future movie will be available to the public this Summer, KurzweilAI announced today (June 16, 2012).

The movie will be available for downloading and via DVD.

A new website, singularity.com/themovie, launched today, includes a movie teaser and links to Facebook and Twitter. You can also sign up to be notified when… read more

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

We are now one year away from global riots, complex systems theorists say

September 11, 2012

Riots

What’s the number one reason we riot? Hunger — food becoming too scarce or too expensive. So argues a group of complex systems theorists in Cambridge, and it makes sense, Motherboard reports.

In a 2011 paper, researchers at the Complex Systems Institute (CSI) unveiled a model that accurately explained why the waves of unrest that swept the world in 2008 and 2011 crashed when they… 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

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

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

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

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

‘Star in a jar’ could lead to limitless fusion energy

New compact spherical tokamak design may overcome physics challenges
August 30, 2016

Spherical torus/tokamak design for fusion nuclear science facility showing magnets and other systems and structures (credit: J.E. Menard et al./Nucl. Fusion)

Physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL)* are building a “star in a jar” — a miniature version of the how our Sun creates energy through fusion. It could provide humankind with near limitless energy, ending dependence on fossil fuels for generating electricity — without contributing greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and with no long-term radioactive waste.

But that requires a… 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

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

MIT designs small, modular, efficient fusion power plant

Could produce about three times as much electricity as is needed to keep it running within a decade, providing electricity to about 100,000 people
August 11, 2015

A cutaway view of the proposed ARC reactor. Thanks to powerful new magnet technology, the much smaller, less-expensive ARC reactor would deliver the same power output as a much larger reactor. (credit: the MIT ARC team)

MIT plans to create a new compact version of a tokamak fusion reactor with the goal of producing practical fusion power, which could offer a nearly inexhaustible energy resource in as little as a decade.

Fusion, the nuclear reaction that powers the sun, involves fusing pairs of hydrogen atoms together to form helium, accompanied by enormous releases of energy.

The new fusion reactor, called ARC,… read more

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