science + technology news

Alpha Go to take on world’s number one Go player in China

Artificial intelligence software vs. humans to highlight five-day festival
April 10, 2017

The world’s number one Go player, Ke Jie (far right] and associates have recreated the opening moves of one of AlphaGo’s games with Lee Sedol from memory to explain the beauty of its moves to Google CEO Sundar Pichai during a visit he made to Nie Weiping’s Go school in Beijing last year (credit: DeepMind)

DeepMind’s Alpha Go AI software will take on China’s top Go players in “The Future of Go Summit” — a five-day festival of Go and artificial intelligence in the game’s birthplace, China, on May 23–27, DeepMind Co-Founder & CEO Demis Hassabis announced today (April 10, 2017).

The summit will feature a variety of game formats involving AlphaGo and top Chinese players, specifically designed to explore the mysteries of… read more

‘Strange Beasts’: Is this the future of augmented reality?

April 10, 2017

(credit: Magali Barbe)

“Strange Beasts” — a five-minute short science fiction movie produced by Magali Barbe, is in the form of an augmented-reality-game promo. Victor Weber, founder of Strange Beasts, says the game “allows players to create, customize, and grow your very own creature.”

Weber explains that this is made possible by “nanoretinal technology” that “superimposes computer-graphics-composed imagery over real world objects by projecting a digital light field… read more

Patient moves paralyzed legs with help from electrical stimulation of spinal cord

April 10, 2017

Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord (credit: Mayo Clinic)

Electrical stimulation of the spinal cord and intense physical therapy have been used by Mayo Clinic researchers to help Jared Chinnock intentionally move his paralyzed legs, stand, and make steplike motions for the first time in three years. The chronic traumatic paraplegia case marks the first time a patient has intentionally controlled previously paralyzed functions within the first two weeks of stimulation.

The case was documented April 3,… read more

Neural probes for the spinal cord

Rubber-like fiber can flex and stretch and can be used for optoelectronic and electrical stimulation/monitoring
April 6, 2017

Researchers have developed a rubber-like fiber, shown here, that can flex and stretch while simultaneously delivering both optical impulses, for optoelectronic stimulation, and electrical connections, for stimulation and monitoring. (credit: Chi (Alice) Lu and Seongjun Park)

A research team led by MIT scientists has developed rubbery fibers for neural probes that can flex and stretch and be implanted into the mouse spinal cord.

The goal is to study spinal cord neurons and ultimately develop treatments to alleviate spinal cord injuries in humans. That requires matching the stretchiness, softness, and flexibility of the spinal cord. In addition, the fibers have to deliver optical impulses (for optoelectronic… read more

Astronomers detect atmosphere around Earth-like planet

April 6, 2017

Artist’s impression  of atmosphere around super-Earth planet GJ 1132b (credit: MPIA)

Astronomers have detected an atmosphere around an Earth-like planet beyond our solar system for the first time: the super-Earth planet GJ 1132b in the Southern constellation Vela, at a distance of 39 light-years from Earth.

The team, led by Keele University’s John Southworth, PhD, used the 2.2 m ESO/MPG telescope in Chile to take images of the planet’s host star GJ 1132. The astronomers made the detection by measuring… read more

This contact lens could someday measure blood glucose and other signs of disease

April 5, 2017

Transparent biosensors in contact lenses -- made visible in this artist's rendition -- could soon help track our health. (credit: Jack Forkey/Oregon State University)

Transparent biosensors embedded into contact lenses could soon allow doctors and patients to monitor blood glucose levels and many other telltale signs of disease from teardops without invasive tests, according to Oregon State University chemical engineering professor Gregory S. Herman, Ph.D. who presented his work Tuesday April 4, 2017 at the American Chemical Society (ACS) National Meeting & Exposition.

Herman and two colleagues previously invented a compound… read more

Mass production of low-cost, flexible inkjet-printed electronics

Researchers demonstrate by producing an inkjet-printed flexible resistive memory
April 5, 2017

Experimental flexible resistive memory printed on a polyimide foil (credit: Bernard Huber)

A group of researchers at Munich University of Applied Sciences in Germany and INRS-EMT in Canada is paving the way for mass-producing low-cost printable electronics by demonstrating a fully inkjet-printable, flexible resistive memory.*

Additive manufacturing (commonly used in 3-D printing), allows for a streamlined process flow, replacing complex lithography (used in making chips), at the detriment of feature size, which however is usually not critical for memory… read more

Magnetically storing a bit on a single atom — the ultimate future data storage

Researchers have finally done it --- but just for 1.5 minutes near absolute zero
April 3, 2017

Dysprosium atoms (green) on the surface of nanoparticles can be magnetized in only one of two possible directions: "spin up" or "spin down." (credit: ETH Zurich / Université de Rennes)

Imagine you could store a bit on a single atom or small molecule — the ultimate magnetic data-storage system. An international team of researchers led by chemists from ETH Zurich has taken a step toward that idea by depositing single magnetizable atoms onto a silica surface, with the atoms retaining their magnetism.

In theory, certain atoms can be magnetized in one of two possible directions: “spin up”… read more

The next agricultural revolution: a ‘bionic leaf’ that could help feed the world

April 3, 2017

The radishes on the right were grown with the help of a bionic leaf that produces fertilizer with bacteria, sunlight, water and air. (credit: Nocera lab, Harvard University)

Harvard University chemists have invented a new kind of “bionic” leaf that uses bacteria, sunlight, water, and air to make fertilizer right in the soil where crops are grown. It could make possible a future low-cost commercial fertilizer for poorer countries in the emerging world.

The invention deals with the renewed challenge of feeding the world as the population continues to balloon.* “When you have a large… read more

This advance could finally make graphene-based semiconductor chips feasible

March 31, 2017

Atomic force microscopy image of as-deposited (left) and laser-annealed (right) rGO (bottom) thin films. The entire "pulsed laser annealing" process is done at room temperature and atmospheric pressure using high-power nanosecond laser pulses to "melt" the rGO material; it is completed in about 200 nanoseconds. (credit: Anagh Bhaumik and Jagdish Narayan/Journal of Applied Physics)

Researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State) have developed a layered material that can be used to develop transistors based on graphene — a long-sought goal in the electronics industry.

Graphene has attractive properties, such as extremely high conductivity, meaning it conducts the flow of electrical current really well (compared to copper, for example), but it’s not a semiconductor, so it can’t work in a… read more

Scientists grow beating heart tissue on spinach leaves

How crossing plant and animal kingdoms may lead to radical new tissue-engineering breakthroughs
March 31, 2017

(credit: Worcester Polytechnic Institute)

A research team headed by Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) scientists* has solved a major tissue engineering problem holding back the regeneration of damaged human tissues and organs: how to grow small, delicate blood vessels, which are beyond the capabilities of 3D printing.**

The researchers used plant leaves as scaffolds (structures) in an attempt to create the branching network of blood vessels — down to the capillary scale — required to… read more

Global night-time lights provide unfiltered data on human activities and socio-economic factors

March 29, 2017

Night-time lights from space correlate to everything from electricity consumption and CO2 emissions, to gross domestic product, population and poverty. (credit: Image courtesy of NASA)

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have developed an online tool that incorporates 21 years of night-time lights data to understand and compare changes in human activities in countries around the world.

The research is published in PLOS One.

The tool compares the brightness of a country’s night-time lights with the corresponding electricity… read more

Graphene-based neural probe detects brain activity at high resolution and signal quality

Potentially relevant to "neural lace" research
March 29, 2017

16 flexible graphene transistors (inset) integrated into a flexible neural probe enable electrical signals from neurons to be measured at high resolution and signal quality. (credit: ICN2)

Researchers from the European Graphene Flagship* have developed a new microelectrode array neural probe based on graphene field-effect transistors (FETs) for recording brain activity at high resolution while maintaining excellent signal-to-noise ratio (quality).

The new neural probe could lay the foundation for a future generation of in vivo neural recording implants, for patients with epilepsy, for example, and for disorders that affect brain function and motor… read more

Musk launches company to pursue ‘neural lace’ brain-interface technology

March 27, 2017

image credit | Bloomberg

Elon Musk has launched a California-based company called Neuralink Corp., The Wall Street Journal reported today (Monday, March 27, 2017), citing people familiar with the matter, to pursue “neural lace” brain-interface technology.

Neural lace would help prevent humans from becoming “house cats” to AI, he suggests. “I think one of the solutions that seems maybe the best is to add an AI layer,” Musk… read more

Travelers to Mars risk leukemia cancer, weakened immune function from radiation, NASA-funded study finds

March 27, 2017

The spleen from a mouse exposed to a mission-relevant dose (20 cGy, 1 GeV/n) of iron ions (bottom) was ~ 30 times the normal volume compared with the spleen (top) from a control mouse. (credit: C Rodman et al./Leukemia)

Radiation encountered in deep space travel may increase the risk of leukemia cancer in humans traveling to Mars, NASA-funded researchers at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine and colleagues have found, using mice transplanted with human stem cells.

“Our results are troubling because they show radiation exposure could potentially increase the risk of leukemia,” said Christopher Porada, Ph.D., associate professor of regenerative medicine and… read more

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