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Light-controlled ‘quantum Etch-a-Sketch’ could lead to advanced computers and quantum microchips

October 14, 2015

Artist’s rendition of optically-defined quantum circuits in a topological insulator. (credit: Peter Allen)

Penn State University and University of Chicago researchers say an accidental discovery of a “quantum Etch-a-Sketch” may lead to a new way to use beams of light to draw and erase quantum circuits, and that could lead to the next generation of advanced computers and quantum microchips.

The new technique is based on “topological insulators” (a material that behaves as an insulator in… read more

Hybrid bio-robotic system models physics of human leg locomotion

Could help design optimal prosthetic and exoskeleton systems
October 14, 2015

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North Carolina State University (NC State) researchers have developed a bio-inspired system that models how human leg locomotion works, by using a computer-controlled nerve stimulator (acting as the spinal cord) to activate a biological muscle-tendon.

The findings could help design robotic devices that begin to merge human and machine to assist human locomotion, serving as prosthetic systems for people with mobility impairments or exoskeletons for increasing the abilities… read more

FDA approves the first 3D-printed drug product

October 13, 2015

SPRITAM® levetiracetam, for oral use: 750 mg (foreground) and 1000 mg (background) (credit: Aprecia Pharmaceuticals Company)

The FDA has approved the first 3D-printed drug — Aprecia’s SPRITAM (levetiracetam) for oral use as a prescription adjunctive therapy in the treatment of seizures in adults and children with epilepsy.

SPRITAM manufacturing uses 3D printing to produce a porous formulation that rapidly disintegrates with a sip of liquid, making it easier to swallow.

The “ZipDose Technology” allows for delivering a high drug load, up to… read more

Imaging study shows you (and your fluid intelligence) can be identified by your brain activity

October 13, 2015

A connectome maps connections between different brain networks (credit: Emily Finn)

Your brain activity appears to be as unique as your fingerprints, a new Yale-led “connectome fingerprinting” study published Monday (Oct. 12) in the journal Nature Neuroscience has found.

By analyzing* “connectivity profiles” (coordinated activity between pairs of brain regions) of fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) images from 126 subjects, the Yale researchers were able to identify specific individuals from the fMRI data alone by their… read more

A battery alternative to costly, rare lithium

October 13, 2015

Potassium ions (purple) are compatible with graphite electrodes (black) and can function in a charge-discharge cycle, researchers have shown (credit: Oregon State University)

Overturning nearly a century of a scientific dogma, Oregon State University chemists have now shown that  potassium could potentially replace rare, costly lithium in a new potassium-ion battery.

“For decades, people have assumed that potassium couldn’t work with graphite or other bulk carbon anodes in a battery,” said Xiulei (David) Ji, the lead author of the study and an assistant professor of chemistry… read more

New ‘optoelectrode’ probe is potential neuroscience-technology breakthrough

Combines optoelectronic (light) and intracortical (electrical) neural recording for the first time
October 12, 2015

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Brown University School of Engineering and Seoul National University researchers have combined optoelectronics and intracortical neural recording for the first time — enabling neuroscientists to optically stimulate neuron activity while simultaneously recording the effects of the stimulation on associated neural microcircuits.

Described in the journal Nature Methods, the new compact, integrated device uses a semiconductor called zinc oxide, which is optically transparent yet able to conduct… read more

This deep-learning method could predict your daily activities from your lifelogging camera images

A future smart personal assistant --- or "pre-crime" tracker?
October 12, 2015

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Georgia Institute of Technology researchers have developed a deep-learning method that uses a wearable smartphone camera to track a person’s activities during a day. It could lead to more powerful Siri-like personal assistant apps and tools for improving health.

In the research, the camera took more than 40,000 pictures (one every 30 to 60 seconds) over a six-month period. The researchers taught a computer to categorize these pictures across… read more

Stephen Hawking on AI

October 9, 2015

Stephen Hawking on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver (credit: HBO)

Reddit published Stephen Hawking’s answers to questions in an “Ask me anything” (AMA) event on Thursday (Oct. 8).

Most of the answers focused on his concerns about the future of AI and its role in our future. Here are some of the most interesting ones. The full list is in this Wired article. (His answers to John Oliver below are funnier.)
The real risk with… read more

A realistic bio-inspired robotic finger

Initial use is in underwater robotics
October 9, 2015

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A realistic 3D-printed robotic finger using a shape memory alloy (SMA) and a unique thermal training technique has been developed by Florida Atlantic University assistant professor Erik Engeberg, Ph.D.

“We have been able to thermomechanically train our robotic finger to mimic the motions of a human finger, like flexion and extension,” said Engeberg. “Because of its light weight, dexterity and strength, our robotic design offers… read more

How to grow old brain cells for studying age-related diseases

October 9, 2015

Salk scientists developed a new technique to grow aged brain cells from patients’ skin. Fibroblasts (cells in connective tissue) from elderly human donors are directly converted into induced neurons, shown. (credit: Salk Institute)

Scientists have developed a first-ever technique for using skin samples from older patients to create brain cells — without first rolling back the youthfulness clock in the cells. The new technique, which yields cells resembling those found in older people’s brains, will be a boon to scientists studying age-related diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

“This lets us keep age-related signatures in the cells so that we can more easily… read more

A soft, bio-friendly ’3-D’ brain-implant electrode

Can capture signals from single neurons in the brain over a long period of time --- without causing brain-tissue damage
October 9, 2015

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Researchers at Lund University have developed implantable multichannel electrodes that can capture signals from single neurons in the brain over a long period of time — without causing brain tissue damage, making it possible to better understand brain function in both healthy and diseased individuals.

Current flexible electrodes can’t maintain their shape when implanted, which is why they have to be attached to a solid chip. That… read more

A new way to create spintronic magnetic information storage

May lead to a more practical way to create data storage, replacing current hard-drive technology
October 9, 2015

A magnetized cobalt disk (red) placed atop a thin cobalt-palladium film (light purple background) can be made to confer its own ringed configuration of magnetic moments (orange arrows) to the film below, creating a skyrmion in the film (purple arrows). The skyrmion, which is stable at room temperature, might be usable in computer memory systems. (credit: Dustin Gilbert / NIST)

Exotic ring-shaped magnetic effects called “skyrmions*” could be the basis for a new type of nonvolatile magnetic computer data storage, replacing current hard-drive technology, according to a team of researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and several universities.

Skyrmions have the advantage of operating at magnetic fields that are several orders of magnitude weaker, but have worked at only very low temperatures until now. The… read more

Neuroscientists simulate tiny part of rat brain in a supercomputer

82 scientists and engineers simulate 37 million synapses in massive Blue Brain Project
October 8, 2015

A virtual brain slice in the rat neocortex (credit: Henry Markram et al./Cell)

The Blue Brain Project, the simulation core of the European Human Brain Project, released today (Oct. 8) a draft digital reconstruction of the neocortical microcircuitry of the rat brain.

The international team, led by Henry Markram of École Polytechnique Fédérale De Lausanne (EPFL) and funded in part by the Swiss government, completed a first-draft computer reconstruction of a piece of… read more

Gartner identifies the top 10 strategic IT technology trends for 2016

October 8, 2015

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At the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo today (Oct. 8), Gartner, Inc. highlighted the top 10 technology trends that will be strategic for most organizations in 2016 and will shape digital business opportunities through 2020.

The Device Mesh

The device mesh refers to how people access applications and information or interact with people, social communities, governments and businesses. It includes mobile devices, wearable, consumer and home electronic devices, automotive devices,… read more

Smaller silver nanoparticles more likely to be absorbed by aquatic life, UCLA study finds

Effects on marine life of the more than 2,000 consumer products that contain nanoparticles are largely unknown
October 7, 2015

Deposits of 20-nanometer silver nanoparticles in zebrafish gill filaments (outlined in red) (credit: Olivia J. Osborne et al./ACS Nano)

A study led by UCLA scientists has found that smaller silver nanoparticles entered fish’s bodies more deeply and persisted longer than larger silver nanoparticles or fluid silver nitrate.

More than 2,000 consumer products today contain nanoparticles — particles so small that they are measured in billionths of a meter. Manufacturers use nanoparticles to help sunscreen work better against the sun’s rays and to make athletic apparel better at wicking… read more

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