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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

Introducing a new feature of IBM’s Watson: The Debater

Can extract information from Wikipedia, "understand" it, and reason from that information, IBM claims
May 5, 2014

(Credit: IBM)

“Can a computer with access to large bodies of information like Wikipedia extract relevant information, digest and reason on that information and understand the context … and present it in natural language, with no human intervention?”

That’s how John Kelly III, Senior Vice President and Director, IBM Research, introduced a new feature of Watson called “The Debater” (starts at 45:25 in video below) at an April 30, 2014… read more

Shields up! How to build a Star Wars-style laser-deflector shield

In honor of Star Wars Day (May 4) -- "May the fourth be with you"
May 4, 2014

A space laser (adapted from a photograph of the Laser Guide Star adaptive optics system used on a telescope in Chile; credit: European Southern Observatory)

Laser shields, such as those protecting spaceships in the Star Wars film series, are scientifically feasible, three University of Leicester physics students have shown.

Here’s how: a plasma can refract (bend) a beam of radiation. In fact, that’s already done in principle; by refracting radio signals, the ionosphere around our planet enables shortwave radio programs from Europe, for example, to be heard in the U.S.… read more

MRI sensor allows neuroscientists to map neural activity with molecular precision

May 2, 2014


MIT researchers have developed a technique that allows them to precisely track neural communication in the brain over time, using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) along with a specialized molecular MRI contrast agent.

This is the first time anyone has been able to map neural signals with high precision over large brain regions in living animals, offering a new window on brain function, says Alan Jasanoff, an… read more

NASA’s new Z-2 prototype spacesuit

May 2, 2014


With 233,431 votes, the “Technology” option has won NASA’s Z-2 Spacesuit design challenge with just over 63% of the total vote. This design now will be incorporated into the final version of the suit, which is expected to be ready for testing by November 2014.

Each new version of the Z-series will advance new technologies that one day will be used in a suit worn by the first astronauts… read more

A new method of producing large volumes of high-quality graphene

May 2, 2014

Graphene powder (credit: Thomas Swan)

A new method of producing industrial quantities of high-quality graphene has been developed by Trinity College Dublin researchers on the AMBER materials-science research team at CRANN.

The researchers say the discovery will “change the way many consumer and industrial products are manufactured.” Potential applications they cite include advanced food packaging, high-strength plastics, super-protective coatings for wind turbines and ships, and batteries with dramatically higher capacity… read more

Serious worldwide threat to public health noted in WHO’s first global report on antibiotic resistance

But a possible future treatment for deadly MRSA hospital-infections is being studied
May 1, 2014

The MRSA superbug (in yellow) is resistant to antibiotics and  can lead to death, but a new polymer-antibiotic combo (credit: National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases)

Antimicrobial resistance (including antibiotic resistance — when bacteria change so antibiotics no longer work) is a serious threat and has gone global, warns the World Health Organization (WHO) in a  report, “Antimicrobial resistance: global report on surveillance.”

“Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades… read more

Graphene’s negative environmental impacts

May 1, 2014


Researchers at the University of California, Riverside Bourns College of Engineering have found graphene oxide nanoparticles are very mobile in lakes or streams and likely to cause negative environmental impacts if released.

Graphene oxide* nanoparticles are an oxidized form of graphene, a single layer of carbon atoms prized for its strength, conductivity and flexibility. Applications for graphene include everything from cell phones and tablet computers… read more

Droplet lens turns a smartphone into a 160X microscope

May 1, 2014

(Credit: Stuart Hay)

Australian scientists have invented a simple and cheap way of making a high-powered lens that can transform a smart phone into a high-resolution microscope.

Costing less than a cent, the lenses promise a revolution in science and medicine in developing countries and remote areas.

Self-forming liquid drops

The lens fabrication technique was invented by Steve Lee from The Australian National University (ANU) Research School of… read more

The molecular secrets behind resveratrol’s health benefits

May 1, 2014


Resveratrol has been much in the news as the component of grapes and red wine associated with reducing “bad cholesterol,” heart disease and some types of cancer. Also found in blueberries, cranberries, mulberries, peanuts and pistachios, resveratrol is associated with beneficial health effects in aging, inflammation and metabolism.

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified one of the molecular pathways that… read more

A new self-assembling graphene-like material for flat semiconductors

May 1, 2014


MIT and Harvard University researchers have found a two-dimensional material whose properties are very similar to graphene*, but with some distinct advantages — including the fact that this material naturally has a usable bandgap, which is essential for making devices such as computer chips and solar cells.

The new material, is a combination of nickel and an organic compound called HITP. Its constituents also naturally… read more

The self-driving car masters city-street driving

May 1, 2014


Google has shifted the focus of its self-driving car project onto mastering city-street driving, according to the Google Official Blog.

“Since the last update, we’ve logged thousands of miles on the streets of our hometown of Mountain View, Calif. A mile of city driving is much more complex than a mile of freeway driving, with hundreds of different objects moving according to different rules of… read more

The cosmic web unveiled: observing ‘dim matter’ in 3D

May 1, 2014


Caltech astronomers have taken unprecedented 3D images of the intergalactic medium (IGM) — the diffuse gas that connects galaxies throughout the universe, proving that the speculated “dim matter” of the universe exists.

Theoreticians have predicted since the 1980s that primordial gas from the Big Bang is not spread uniformly throughout space, but is instead distributed in channels that span galaxies and flow between them. This “cosmic web” —… read more

How a synapse stays stable when its proteins are renewed

April 30, 2014


Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried have found an explanation for how a synapse stays stable for a long time despite the fact that its proteins must be renewed regularly.

The researchers studied the growth of synapses in tissue culture dishes following exposure to a learning stimulus. To do this, they activated individual synapses using the neurotransmitter glutamate, which plays an important role… read more

Disney Research creates 3D-printed interactive speakers of any shape

April 30, 2014

3d printed speaker

Scientists at Disney Research, Pittsburgh have developed methods to use a 3D printer to produce electrostatic loudspeakers that can take the shape of anything, from a rubber ducky to an abstract spiral.

The simple speakers require little assembly, but even those few manual steps might be eliminated in the future, said co-developer Yoshio Ishiguro, a Disney Research, Pittsburgh post-doctoral associate. “In five to 10 years, a 3D… read more

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