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Dogs dig sociable robots

Will robot-dog games replace cat videos?
September 16, 2013


Dogs react sociably to robots that behave socially towards them, even if the devices look nothing like a human, Gabriella Lakatos of the Hungarian Academy of Science and Eötvös Loránd University and associates have found.

The researchers used a customized human-sized PeopleBot with two arms and Mickey Mouse cartoon-style four-fingered hands. One of its robotic arms makes simple gestures and grasps objects.

It was programmed to either perform… read more

‘Terminator’ polymer regenerates itself

September 16, 2013

T-1000 terminator

Scientists have developed the first self-healing polymer that can spontaneously achieve healing in the absence of a catalyst.

Self-healing polymers have been able to mend themselves by reforming broken cross-linking bonds, but that requires an external catalyst (trigger) to promote bond repair, such as heat, light, or specific environmental conditions, such as pH.

Ibon Odriozola at the CIDETEC Centre for Electrochemical Technologies in Spain used a poly(urea–urethane)… read more

Proteins that are vital to long-term memory

September 16, 2013

(Credit: iStockphoto)

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have found a group of proteins called Wnts that are essential to the formation of long-term memories.

These proteins send signals from the outside to the inside of a cell, inducing a cellular response that is crucial for normal functioning of the adult brain (and aspects of embryonic development, including stem cell differentiation).… read more

Cell phones transforming health care in Africa

September 16, 2013


In a little over a decade, Africa has gone from a region with virtually no fixed-line telecoms infrastructure to a continent where one in six of the billion inhabitants now owns a cell phone, creating one of the largest, low-cost distributed sensor networks we’ve ever seen, with the potential to completely transform global health care, MIT Technology Review reports.

But ultimately the biggest impact may well come… read more

Data glasses controlled by eye movements

September 15, 2013


Fraunhofer COMEDD researchers have developed eye-controlled data glasses that overlay data on the real world and let you flip through pages using eye motions.

The camera sensors integrated into the OLED (organic light-emitting diode) screen track the wearer’s eye movements and an image processing program calculates the exact position of their pupils in real time.

An invisible infrared light source in the glasses… read more

Voyager 1 embarks on historic journey into interstellar space

September 13, 2013


NASA‘s Voyager 1 spacecraft is now officially the first human-made object to venture into interstellar space. The 36-year-old probe is about 12 billion miles (19 billion kilometers) from our sun.

New and unexpected data indicate Voyager 1 has been traveling for about one year through plasma, or ionized gas, present in the space between stars. Voyager is in a transitional region immediately outside… read more

Creating new memories by directly changing the brain

Findings could prove helpful in understanding and resolving learning and memory disorders
September 13, 2013

Creating new memories

UC Irvine neurobiologists have created specific new memories by direct manipulation of the brain, which could prove key to understanding and potentially resolving learning and memory disorders.

Specific memories can be made by directly altering brain cells in the cerebral cortex, which produces the predicted specific memory, research led by senior author Norman M. Weinberger, a research professor of neurobiology & behavior at… read more

Microsoft’s Cortana to battle Siri

September 13, 2013

Cortana (credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft is preparing a Siri-like personal voice assistant based on Bing, code-named Cortana, for Windows Phone,  eWeek reports. (Cortana is a holographic AI construct that figures prominently in the Halo video game series.)

Like its Halo counterpart, Cortana “will be able to learn and adapt, thanks to machine-learning technology and the ‘Satori’ knowledge repository powering Bing,” according to ZDNet’s Mary Jane Foley.

Satori, which… read more

Selectively erasing unwanted memories

September 13, 2013

(Credit: Universal Studios)

Scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have been able to erase dangerous drug-associated memories in mice and rats without affecting other more benign memories.

The surprising discovery points to a clear and workable method to disrupt unwanted memories while leaving the rest intact, the scientists say.

For recovering addicts and individuals suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), unwanted memories… read more

A new method for harvesting energy from light

September 12, 2013

Researchers fabricated nanostructures with various photoconduction properties (credit: American Chemical Society)

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have demonstrated a new mechanism for extracting energy from light, a finding that could improve technologies for generating electricity from solar energy and lead to more efficient optoelectronic devices used in communications.

The research centers on plasmonic nanostructures, specifically, materials fabricated from gold particles and light-sensitive molecules of porphyin, of precise sizes and arranged in specific patterns.

Plasmons, or a… read more

A moveable, flexible display made of paper

September 12, 2013


Flexpad transforms a standard sheet of paper into a moveable, flexible display.

The technology was developed in the “Flexpad” research project under the leadership of Jürgen Steimle in the MIT Media Lab and the Max Planck Institute for Informatics in Saarbrücken, in cooperation with Kiel University.

“We routinely deform objects intuitively in many different ways. We bend back pages in books, deflate… read more

Designing amazingly strong materials from the bottom up

"The greater strength of these nanostructured materials comes from the fact that when samples become sufficiently small, their potential flaws also become very small"
September 12, 2013


Why do the lightweight skeletons of organisms such as sea sponges display a strength that far exceeds that of man-made products constructed from similar materials?

Scientists have long suspected that the difference has to do with the hierarchical architecture of the biological materials — the way the silica-based skeletons are built up from different structural elements.

Now engineers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have… read more

Programmable glue made of DNA directs tiny gel bricks to self-assemble

New method could help to reconnect injured organs or build functional human tissues from the ground up
September 11, 2013

DNA glue featured

Researchers at the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University have found a way to self-assemble complex structures out of bricks smaller than a grain of salt.

The self-assembly method could help solve one of the major challenges in tissue engineering: regrowing human tissue by injecting tiny components into the body that then self-assemble into larger, intricately structured, biocompatible scaffolds at an injury… read more

XPRIZE launches $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE

A global competition incentivizing breakthroughs in ocean pH sensing technologies to monitor and sustain the health of our oceans
September 11, 2013


XPRIZE has announced the launch of the $2 million Wendy Schmidt Ocean Health XPRIZE. It aims to spur global innovators to develop accurate and affordable ocean pH sensors that will ultimately transform our understanding of ocean acidification, one of the gravest problems associated with the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2).

“Just as we have sensors to monitor our body’s vital signs, we… read more

NSA admits wrongly adding 16,000 phone numbers to ‘alert list’

September 11, 2013


The National Security Agency admitted in documents released Tuesday that it had wrongly put 16,000 phone numbers on an “alert list” so their incoming calls could be monitored, a mistake that a judge on the secret surveillance court called a “flagrant violation” of the law, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation and the… read more

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