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CREATIVITY: the mind, machines, and mathematics–David Gelernter vs. Ray Kurzweil

November 29, 2006

Are we limited to building super-intelligent robotic “zombies” or will it be possible and desirable for us to build conscious, creative, volitional, perhaps even “spiritual” machines?

That’s the topic of a debate between Yale professor of computer science David Gelernter and Ray Kurzweil and moderated by Rodney Brooks in a special MIT event, Creativity: the mind, machines, and mathematics, on Thursday, November 30 at 4:30-5:30pm EDT.… read more

Still Waiting for Personalized Medicine

November 28, 2006

Pharmacogenomics–a field whose researchers aim to let doctors tailor prescriptions to their patients’ genetic makeups–is one of the most tantalizing promises of the genomic era: quick and easy tests that tell you which drugs to take or what dose is right for you.

A few tests have been developed for specific diseases, such as cancer–most notably a genetic test that predicts which lung cancer patients will respond to some… read more

Part II: The Glimmering Promise of Gene Therapy

November 28, 2006

Its history is marred by failures, false hopes, and even death, but for a number of the most horrendous human diseases, gene therapy still holds the promise of a cure. Now, for the first time, there is reason to believe that it is actually working.

Atom spied interfering with electron flow

November 28, 2006

An individual “dopant” atom has been spied interfering with the flow of electrons through a silicon transistor for the first time. Researchers say the feat could help scientists squeeze more power out of conventional computers and ultimately develop silicon-based quantum computers.

Whales boast the brain cells that ‘make us human’

November 28, 2006

Whales have spindle neurons — specialised brain cells that are involved in processing emotions and helping us interact socially.

The cells occur in parts of the human brain that are thought to be responsible for our social organization, empathy, speech, intuition about the feelings of others, and rapid “gut” reactions.

What is more, whales appear to have had these cells for at least twice as long as humans,… read more

A Smarter Computer to Pick Stocks

November 27, 2006

Wall Street is adopting nonlinear decision making processes akin to how a brain operates, including neural networks, and genetic algorithms, and other advanced computer-science techniques.

“Artificial intelligence is becoming so deeply integrated into our economic ecostructure that some day computers will exceed human intelligence,” Ray Kurzweil told fund managers at a recent conference. “Machines can observe billions of market transactions to see patterns we could never see.”

Souls of a new machine

November 27, 2006

Intelligence augmentation (IA) is a catch-all term for a wide variety of methods that use actual human beings, with actual human brains, as part of computer programs. The idea is that by having a human deal with the specific parts of a problem that are difficult or impossible for a computer, but trivial for you or me, you can have a program that seems to possess real human intelligence.… read more

Store 256GB on an A4 sheet

November 27, 2006

New “rainbow technology” allows data to be encoded into colored geometric shapes and stored in patterns on paper or or plastic sheets at a density of 2.7GB per square inch and and then played back through a computer with a special scanner attached.

Small Molecule, Big Threat

November 27, 2006

MicroRNAs (miRNAs) play important roles in health and disease, and tiny amounts can cause heart failure.

Genetically erasing the miRNA that prompted heart failure could prevent it, scientists speculate.

YouTube for test tubes

November 27, 2006

The newly launched Journal of Visualized Experiments (JoVE) consists entirely of videos of scientists performing basic molecular-biology protocols.

The goal is to help scientists improve the reproducibility of their work, while also providing a window for the public to view what goes on in the lab.

How to live long and prosper

November 26, 2006

University of Chicago researchers found that first-born children were 1.7 times as likely as their siblings to live to be 100 and those whose mothers were less than 25 years old were twice as likely to survive beyond a century.

Heart stem cells discovered by three teams

November 23, 2006

Cardiovascular “precursor” cells from cultures of mouse embryonic stem cells, dubbed “master” heart cells, hold the promise of treating patients with serious cardiovascular disease by rebuilding both cardiac muscle and blood vessels.

Silicon becomes a superconductor

November 23, 2006

By substituting 9 percent of the silicon atoms with boron atoms, Physicists in France have found that the resistance of the material drops sharply when cooled below 0.35 K.

Gene duplications may define who you are

November 23, 2006

Two separate studies of the human genome have revealed an unsuspected amount of variation between people in the number of copies of genes they have.

Such variations appear to involve as much as 12 percent of our DNA, so as personalized genetic sequencing becomes more common, questions are raised about what constitutes a “normal” genome.

Thinking Machines

November 22, 2006

Danny Hillis talks about the real-world challenges of creating artificially intelligent machines.

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