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‘Cobots’ enhance robotic manufacturing

But how do you integrate them with humans in a manufacturing plant (and overcome negative Hollywood stereotypes)?
January 23, 2015

Baxter, introduced in 2012 by the company Rethink Robotics, is a two-armed robot with a tablet-like panel for its "eyes." (Credit: Rethink Robotics, Inc.)

Manufacturers have begun experimenting with a new generation of “cobots” (collaborative robots) designed to work side-by-side with humans.

To determine best practices for effectively integrating human-robot teams within manufacturing environments, a University of Wisconsin-Madison team headed by Bilge Mutlu, an assistant professor of computer sciences, is working with an MIT team headed by Julie A. Shah, an assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics.… read more

Could we travel to other parts of our galaxy — or other galaxies — via a giant wormhole?

January 23, 2015

The (hypothetical) wormhole proposed by Kuefettig, Salucci et al connecting the center with a very far position of our Galaxy when one passes through its throat. (credit: SISSA (Salucci))

There could be a space-time tunnel (wormhole) in our galaxy, as dramatized by the film Interstellar, that would allow us to travel to a distant location in the galaxy, and the tunnel could even be the size of our entire galaxy.

That’s what astrophysicist/dark-matter expert Paolo Salucci of the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) and colleagues suggest in a paper published in Annals of Physics (open-access… read more

Laser may replace copper in computer chips for high-speed, low-energy data transmission

January 22, 2015

Schematic structure of the germanium-tin (GeSn) laser, applied directly onto the silicon wafer (blue) by using an intermediate layer of pure germanium (orange). (Credit: Forschungszentrum Jülich)

An international team of scientists has constructed the first germanium-tin* semiconductor laser for CMOS silicon chips. By replacing copper wires with optical transmission, the new device promises higher-speed data transmission on computer chips at a fraction of the energy.

The results by scientists from Forschungszentrum Jülich and the Paul Scherrer Institute in Switzerland in cooperation with international partners were published in the journal Nature Photonics.… read more

MIT scientists question effectiveness of sequestration of carbon dioxide

January 22, 2015

Credit: Christine Daniloff/MIT

As KurzweilAI recently reported, carbon sequestration promises to address greenhouse-gas emissions by capturing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and injecting it deep below the Earth’s surface, where it would permanently solidify into rock.

The EPA estimates that current carbon-sequestration technologies may eliminate up to 90 percent of carbon dioxide emissions from coal-fired power plants.

However, while such technologies may successfully remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere,… read more

NASA-Microsoft augmented-reality system allows scientists to ‘work on Mars’

January 22, 2015

A screen view from OnSight, a software tool developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in collaboration with Microsoft. OnSight uses real rover data to create a 3-D simulation of the Martian environment where mission scientists can "meet" to discuss rover operations. (credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech)

NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Microsoft have developed software called OnSight that will enable scientists to work virtually on Mars with Mars Curiosity rover, using wearable technology called Microsoft HoloLens.

“OnSight gives our rover scientists the ability to walk around and explore Mars right from their offices,” said Dave Lavery, program executive for the Marsread more

Microsoft announces HoloLens augmented-reality display

January 22, 2015


Microsoft introduced Tuesday (Jan. 21) HoloLens, an immersive, augmented-reality device based on the forthcoming Windows 10 operating system, also announced. No release date or price is available.

HoloLens allows users to interact with 3D objects, which are displayed as floating images, emulating holographic projections. A built-in CPU, graphics core, and “Holographic Processing Unit” (HPU) replaces the need for a phone or external computer. HoloLens recognizes gestures, gaze,… read more

Supermaterials improve solar collectors

January 21, 2015

University of Rochester Institute of Optics professor Chunlei Guo has developed a technique that uses lasers to render materials hydrophobic, illustrated in this image of a water droplet falling off a treated sample in his lab (Credit: J. Adam Fenster/University of Rochester)

By zapping ordinary metals with femtosecond laser pulses, researchers from the University of Rochester in New York have created extraordinary new surfaces that efficiently absorb light, repel water and clean themselves for use in durable, low-maintenance solar collectors and sensors, for example.

This is the first multifunctional metal surface created by lasers that is superhydrophobic (water repelling), self-cleaning, and highly absorptive,” said Chunlei Guo, a physicist… read more

New microscope creates 3D movies of living things

January 21, 2015

This schematic depicts SCAPE’s imaging geometry. The light sheet is swept at the sample by slowly moving a polygonal mirror mounted on a galvanometer motor. This alters the angle at which the light is incident at the edge of the objective's back aperture, causing the beam to sweep across the sample. The light emitted by fluorophores within this illuminated plane travels back through the same objective lens, and is de-scanned by the same polygonal mirror (from an adjacent facet). This light forms an oblique image of the illuminated plane that stays stationary and aligned with the illumination plane, even though the light sheet is moving through the sample (just as a confocal pinhole stays aligned with the scanning illuminated focal point in laser scanning confocal microscopy). So with one (<5 degree) movement of the polygon, the entire volume is sampled. (Credit: Elizabeth Hillman, Columbia Engineering)

A Columbia University scientist has developed a new microscope that can image freely moving living things in 3D at very high speeds — up to 100 times faster 3D imaging than laser-scanning confocal, two-photon, and light-sheet microscopy.

Developed by Elizabeth Hillman, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Columbia Engineering, SCAPE (swept confocally aligned planar excitation microscopy) uses a… read more

A better ‘Siri’

Planning algorithms evaluate probability of success, suggest low-risk alternatives
January 20, 2015

A directed graph (credit: Wikipedia)

At the annual meeting of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) this month, MIT computer scientists will present smart algorithms that function as “a better Siri,” optimizing planning for lower risk, such as scheduling flights or bus routes.

They offer this example:

Imagine that you could tell your phone that you want to drive from your house in Boston to a hotel inread more

Mysterious cosmic burst of radio waves detected by astronomers

January 20, 2015

This is a schematic illustration of CSIRO's Parkes radio telescope receiving the polarised signal from the new 'fast radio burst'. (Credit: Swinburne Astronomy Productions)

On May 14, 2014, astronomers at Parkes Radio Telescope led by Emily Petroff at Swinburne University of Technology observed live an extremely short, sharp “fast radio burst” for 2.8 milliseconds at a microwave frequency of 1.4 GHz from an unknown source at an estimated distance of up to 5.5 billion light years from Earth. 24 seconds later, an email alert went out to astronomers at… read more

Malware detection technology identifies malware without examining source code

January 19, 2015


Hyperion, new malware detection software that can quickly recognize malicious software even if the specific program has not been previously identified as a threat, has been licensed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) to R&K Cyber Solutions LLC (R&K).

Hyperion, which has been under development for a decade, offers more comprehensive scanning capabilities than existing cyber security methods, said one of its inventors, Stacy Prowellread more

Automated method beats critics and Academy Awards in picking great movies

Data analysis trumps critics, wisdom of crowds, and number of movie awards
January 19, 2015

Subgraph of film connections network. Films are ordered chronologically, based on year of release, from bottom to top (not to scale). A connection between two films exists if a sequence, sentence, character, or other part of the referenced film has been adopted, used, or imitated in the referencing film. For example, there is a connection from 1987’s Raising Arizona (22) to 1981’s The Evil Dead (23) (second column from left) because the main characters of both films drive an Oldsmobile Delta 88. Values represent the time lag of the connection, measured in years. (credit: Wasserman et al/NU)

According to a new Northwestern University study, the best predictor of a movie’s significance is how often a movie is referenced by other movies.

In other words, a movie’s significance is decided by today’s and tomorrow’s film directors — not the critics.

“Movie critics can be overconfident in spotting important works, and they have bias,” said Luís Amaral, the leader of the study and… read more

Huge ultra-realistic outdoor 3D displays without glasses planned for next year

The boundaries of reality are about to dissolve
January 19, 2015

Billboards of the future could show astonishing 3D effects - due to a new technology developed in Austria. (Credit: TriLite)

Vienna University of Technology (TU Vienna) physicists have designed a radical autostereoscopic (“glasses-free”) laser display that will send different ultrathin laser beams directly to individual viewers’ eyes, with full sunlight readability. The objective: create a realistic 3D illusion that changes as viewers walk or fly around the virtual object, with up to several thousand 3D viewing zones — each zone displaying a different view.

TU Vienna spinoff… read more

How the brain controls fat burning

January 16, 2015

(Credit: Monash University)

In case the “imaginary meal” approach to burning fat doesn’t work, now there’s a backup.

Monash University researchers have discovered that two naturally occurring hormones stimulate neurons in the brain’s hypothalamus, causing them to send signals through the nervous system that promote the conversion of white fat into brown fat. This leads to burning off excess fat.

The findings, published Thursday (Jan.… read more

Expanding the brain achieves super-resolution with ordinary confocal microscopes

January 16, 2015

expansion microscopy -ft

Engineers at the MIT-based Center for Brains, Minds and Machines have developed a way to make a brain expand to about four and a half times its usual size, allowing nanoscale structures to appear sharp with an ordinary confocal microscope.

The new “expansion microscopy” technique uses an expandable polymer and water to  enable researchers to achieve “super-resolution” to resolve details down to… read more

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