science + technology news

IBM’s silicon photonics technology aims to speed up cloud and Big Data applications

First fully integrated silicon chip to use high-speed pulses of light instead of slow electrical signals
May 12, 2015

Cassette carrying several hundred chips intended for 100 Gb/s transceivers, diced from wafers fabricated with IBM CMOS Integrated Nano-Photonics Technology. The dense monolithic integration of optical and electrical circuits and the scalable manufacturing process provide a cost-effective silicon photonics interconnect solution, suitable for deployment in cloud servers, datacenters, and supercomputers. (US quarter coin shown for scale.) (credit: IBM)

IBM announced today (May 12) what is says in the first fully integrated silicon chip to use high-speed pulses of light instead of slow electrical signals over wires. That means the chip will be able to move data at rapid speeds and longer distances in future computing systems.

The silicon photonics chip is wavelength-multiplexed, meaning it can transmit multiple wavelengths of light. IBM says they… read more

Electric brain stimulation decreases IQ scores and racial prejudice

May 11, 2015

Electric field modeling of tDCS-ft

In a double-blinded, randomized study, UNC researchers found that the IQ scores of people who underwent tDCS brain stimulation improved markedly less than did the IQ scores of people in the placebo group.

Using a weak electric current in an attempt to boost brainpower or treat conditions has become popular among scientists and do-it-yourselfers, but a new UNC School of Medicine study shows that using the most common form… read more

3D reconstruction of neuronal networks uncovers hidden organizational principles of sensory cortex

Most cortical circuitry interconnects neurons across cortical columns, rather than within
May 11, 2015

Credit: Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience

An international research team has reconstructed anatomically realistic 3D models of cortical columns of the rat brain, providing unprecedented insight into how neurons in the elementary functional units of the sensory cortex called cortical columns are interconnected.

The models suggest that cortical circuitry interconnects most neurons across cortical columns, rather than within and that these “trans-columnar” networks are not uniformly structured: they are highly specialized and integrate… read more

Autonomous underwater vehicle robots get cognitive control

May 11, 2015

Researchers watch underwater footage taken by various AUVs exploring Australia's Scott Reef. (Credit: Courtesy of the researchers)

MIT researchers have developed an autonomous mission-planning system for “autonomous underwater vehicles” (AUVs) that gives these undersea robots “cognitive” capabilities.

Scientists have been deploying increasingly capable underwater robots to map and monitor pockets of the ocean to track the health of fisheries and survey marine habitats and species. But when deploying these AUVs, much of an engineer’s time is spent writing scripts to direct a robot to carry out… read more

A new visualization of the electromagnetic spectrum

May 8, 2015


An infographic created by the Department of Energy’s Brookhaven Lab uses ocean creatures and objects to illustrate the extraordinary range of wavelengths (the inverse of frequencies) in the electromagnetic spectrum — from radio waves to gamma rays — and the lab’s role in research at these wavelengths. (The spectrum actually extends beyond the objects shown here.)

Many of these objects, including the 30-meter blue whale or the… read more

Smarter, cheaper technologies for improved point-of-care medicine in remote areas

May 8, 2015

cell phone test for E.coli

Stanford University School of Medicine scientists have developed new paper and flexible polymer substrates with special sensing devices for rapid and accurate detection of pathogens such as HIV, various bacteria, and CD4+ T lymphocytes.

These novel technologies offer the type of robust, simple, and inexpensive biosensing systems required to provide point-of-care health care in remote areas, where there is minimal diagnostic infrastructure or equipment and a lack of trained… read more

Plugging up leaky graphene

New technique may enable faster, more durable water filters
May 8, 2015

In a two-step process, engineers have successfully sealed leaks in graphene. First, the team fabricated graphene on a copper surface (top left) — a process that can create intrinsic defects in graphene, shown as cracks on the surface. After lifting the graphene and depositing it on a porous surface (top right), the transfer creates further holes and tears. In a first step (bottom left), the team used atomic layer deposition to deposit hafnium (in gray) to seal intrinsic cracks, then plugged the remaining holes (bottom left) with nylon (in red), via interfacial polymerization.

Graphene’s unique properties make it a potentially ideal membrane for water filtration or desalination. but the process of making it into ultrathin membranes creates leaky defects. So MIT engineers and associates have devised a two-step process to repair these leaks.

As shown in the illustration (top left) graphene is fabricated on a copper surface — a process that can create intrinsic defects in graphene. After lifting the graphene and… read more

A new technique to build complex custom-designed DNA scaffolds

May 7, 2015

DNA nanotube assembly-ft

McGill University researchers have devised a new technique to produce long, custom-designed DNA strands to build nanoscale structures to deliver drugs to targets within the body or take electronic miniaturization to a new level.

Researchers have been assembling and experimenting with DNA structures or “DNA origami” for years, as KurzweilAI has reported. But as these applications continue to develop, they require increasingly large and complex strands of… read more

Researchers reverse bacterial resistance to antibiotics

Based on tested strategic schedule of antibiotic cycling
May 7, 2015

Antibiotic resistance tests: Bacteria are streaked on the dish and on which antibiotic impregnated white disks are placed. Bacteria in the culture on the left are susceptible to the antibiotic in each disk, as shown by the dark, clear rings where bacteria have not grown. Those on the right are fully susceptible to only three of the seven antibiotics tested (credit: Graham Beards/Wikimedia Commons)

Biologist Miriam Barlow of the University of California, Merced, and mathematician Kristina Crona of American University of Washington, DC have found a way to return bacteria to a pre-resistant state to help doctors deal with the growing problem of resistant bacteria. In research published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, they show how to verify treatment options for a family of 15 antibiotics used to fight… read more

Molecular homing beacon redirects human antibodies to fight threat of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens

Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis invents the Alphamer, which attracts pre-existing antibodies to help immune system clear infection
May 7, 2015

Alphamers (purple) act as homing beacons, attracting pre-existing anti-alpha-Gal antibodies (green) to the bacterial surface. Watch the full animation at Credit: Altermune Technologies

Good news on the serious threat of multidrug-resistant bacterial pathogens, which are rampant in hospitals and elsewhere: the Alphamer, a “molecular homing beacon,” has been invented by Nobel Laureate Kary Mullis, PhD, who previously invented polymerase chain reaction (PCR), a widely used lab technique for diagnostic tests, sequencing DNA, and other applications.

This entirely novel approach tags bacteria with a molecular “homing beacon” that attracts… read more

How to read a monkey’s mind

Stanford experiment has implications for design of brain-controlled prostheses and for the "free will" debate
May 7, 2015

Decision-maze task-ft

Haven you ever wondered what goes on in a monkey’s mind when it’s making a decision? We haven’t either. But for Stanford University neuroscientists, doing exactly that could help design better prostheses (such as artificial arms) controlled by a user’s brain.

For example, when should the artificial arm move? Instantly, or only after the user is absolutely certain of a decision (as indicated by neural signals) to avoid a… read more

New type of stem cell could lead to breakthroughs in regenerative medicine

May 7, 2015

In this image, a novel type of human stem cell is shown in green integrating and developing into the surrounding cells of a nonviable mouse embryo. Red indicates cells of endoderm lineage. Endoderm cells can give rise to tissue that covers organs from the digestive and respiratory systems. The new stem cell, developed at the Salk Institute, holds promise for one day growing replacement functional cells and tissues. (Credit: Salk Institute for Biological Studies)

Scientists at the Salk Institute have discovered a novel type of pluripotent stem cell that develops into a tissue type that is based on the stem cell’s region, or location, in a developing embryo.

Pluripotent stem cells are cells that are capable of differentiating (developing) in the embryo into any of the three germ layers: endoderm (interior stomach lining, gastrointestinal tract, the lungs), mesoderm… read more

Real-world stereotypes continue to exist in virtual worlds

May 6, 2015


Stereotypes related to gender and appearance that burden women in the real world could follow them into virtual ones, according to Penn State researchers.

In a study of how people interacted with avatars in an online game, women received less help from fellow players than men when they operated an unattractive avatar and when they used a male avatar, said T. Franklin Waddell, a doctoral candidate in massread more

A consumer version of Oculus Rift VR headset coming in early 2016

May 6, 2015

A first look at the Oculus Rift for consumers (credit: Oculus VR)

Oculus VR announced today (May 6) that the Oculus Rift VR headset will be shipping to consumers in Q1 2016, with pre-orders later this year.

“The Rift delivers on the dream of consumer VR with compelling content, a full ecosystem, and a fully-integrated hardware/software tech stack designed specifically for virtual reality,” Oculus VR said in the blog post. “It’s a system designed by a team of extremely… read more

New centimeter-accurate GPS system could transform virtual reality and mobile devices

May 6, 2015


A centimeter-accurate GPS-based positioning system that could revolutionize geolocation on virtual reality headsets, cellphones, and other devices has been developed by researchers in the Cockrell School of Engineering at The University of Texas at Austin.

Applications could include drones that can deliver packages to a specific spot on a consumer’s porch, precise collision-avoidance systems on cars (via vehicle-to-vehicle communications), and a globally referenced… read more

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