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Paramount acquires science-fiction novel ‘Nexus’

March 18, 2013


Paramount Pictures has acquired screen rights to Nexus, the science fiction novel by Ramez Naam, to be produced by Mary Parent of Disruption for Darren Aronofsky’s Protozoa.

The author, former CEO of Apex Nanotechnology, is the author of the nonfiction book More Than Human: Embracing The Promise Of Biological Enhancement.

Here’s the plot from Amazon:

In the near future,… read more

Ten extraordinary Pentagon mind experiments

March 15, 2013


Duke University experiments in connecting the brains of two rats through implanted electrodes and the planned Brain Activity Map project reflect a growing Pentagon interest in neuroscience for applications that range from such far-off ideas as teleoperation of military devices (think mind-controlled drones), to more near-term and less controversial technology, like prosthetics controlled by the human brain, BBC Future more

Formation of carbon-based life leave little room for error

March 15, 2013

Light quark mass determines carbon and oxygen production and the viability of carbon-based life (credit: Dean Lee and NASA)

Life as we know it is based primarily on the elements carbon and oxygen.

Now a team of physicists, including one from North Carolina State University, is looking at the conditions necessary to the formation of those two elements in the universe.

They’ve found that when it comes to supporting life, the universe leaves very little margin for error.

Both carbon and oxygen… read more

Drug treatment corrects autism symptoms in mouse model

March 15, 2013

Cerebral abnormalities corrected by antipurinergic drug therapy. (C) Mouse given a viral infection, showing a malformed, growth-stunted post-synaptic density. (D) Treated mouse restoration of near-normal post-synaptic density (arrow) and reduction in abnormal accumulations of electron-dense matrix material. (Credit: Robert K. Naviaux et al., PLoS ONE)

Autism is thought to result from abnormal cell communication. Testing a new theory, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have used a newly discovered function of an old drug called suramin — used medically for the treatment of African sleeping sickness — to restore cell communications in a mouse model of autism, reversing symptoms of the devastating disorder.

The findings… read more

In the developing world, MOOCs start to get real

March 15, 2013

Some of the 19 Coursera courses on AI and robotics (credit: Coursera)

Students in countries like India and Brazil have been signing up in droves for these massive open online courses, or MOOCs, offered for free from top-tier universities, such as Stanford, MIT, and Harvard.

Yet in the world’s poorest regions, where even reliable high-speed Internet access capable of streaming course lecture videos is hard to come by, delivering a useful education to the masses is clearly not a straightforward operation,… read more

Events in the future seem closer than those in the past

We tend to feel closer to the future because we feel like we’re moving toward it
March 15, 2013

Screen capture of a virtual environment for testing time perception (credit: Caruso E M et al./Psychological Science)

We say that time flies, it marches on, it flows like a river — our descriptions of time are closely linked to our experiences of moving through space.

Now, new research suggests that the illusions that influence how we perceive movement through space also influence our perception of time. The findings provide evidence that our experiences of space and time have even more in common than previously… read more

Texting or some hands-free talking behind the wheel is as dangerous as being over the limit

March 15, 2013

Answering messages behind the wheel is as dangerous as being twice over the limit (credit: SINC)

Using a handsfree kit or sending text messages is the same as being above the legal alcohol limit, an experiment by Scientists from  Australian universities in collaboration with the University of Barcelona has demonstrated.

The Australian universities of Wollongong, Victoria, Swinburne of Technology, the Institute for Breathing and Sleep, and the University of Barcelona measured the reaction capacity behind the wheel of 12 healthy volunteers who participated… read more

Non-action video-game playing may enhance specific cognitive skills

Regular game play improves performance on tasks that use mental processes similar to those in those video games
March 15, 2013

(Credit: Big Fish Games)

Playing video games for an hour each day can improve subsequent performance on cognitive tasks that use mental processes similar to those involved in the game, according to research published March 13 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Previous evidence points to a causal link between playing action video games and enhanced cognition and perception. But what about the benefits of playing other types of video games?… read more

New results indicate that new particle is a Higgs boson

March 14, 2013

An example of simulated data modelled for the CMS particle detector on the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN. Here, following a collision of two protons, a Higgs boson is produced which decays into two jets of hadrons and two electrons. The lines represent the possible paths of particles produced by the proton-proton collision in the detector while the energy these particles deposit is shown in blue. (Image credit: CERN)

At the recent Moriond Conference, the ATLAS and CMS collaborations at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) presented preliminary new results, finding that the new particle is looking more and more like a Higgs boson, the particle linked to the mechanism that gives mass to elementary particles.

It remains an open question, however, whether this is the Higgs… read more

Ultra-high-speed optical communications link sets new power efficiency record

March 14, 2013

optical communication link

Ultrafast supercomputers that operate at speeds 100 times faster than current systems may now be one step closer to reality.

A team of IBM researchers working on a U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)-funded program have found a way to transmit massive amounts of data with unprecedented low-power consumption. They increased the speed by 66 percent while cutting the power in half, compared to the previous… read more

Magnetic stimulation of the brain improves memory in schizophrenia

May be a "novel, efficacious, and safe treatment for working memory deficits in schizophrenia," scientists suggest
March 14, 2013

Targeting the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex for repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation. (credit: Mera S. Barr et al./Biological Psychiatry)

University of Toronto scientists have found evidence that stimulating the brain using repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) may be an effective strategy to improve cognitive function for patients with schizophrenia.

“In a randomized controlled trial, we evaluated whether rTMS can improve working memory in schizophrenia,” said Dr. Mera Barr and senior author Dr. Zafiris Daskalakis. “Our results showed that rTMS resulted in a significant improvement in working… read more

Astronomers conduct first remote reconnaissance of another solar system

New imaging tools penetrate bright starlight to image planets; could help identify candidate habitable planets for 100YSS expedition
March 14, 2013

Image of the HR8799 planets with starlight optically suppressed and data processing conducted to remove residual starlight. The star is at the center of the blackened circle in the image. The four spots indicated with the letters b through e are the planets. This is a composite image using 30 wavelengths of light and was obtained over a period of 1.25 hours on June 14 and 15, 2012. (Credit:

Researchers have conducted a remote reconnaissance of a distant solar system with a new telescope imaging system that sifts through the blinding light of stars.

Using a suite of high-tech instrumentation and software called Project 1640, the scientists collected the first chemical fingerprints, or spectra, of this system’s four red exoplanets, which orbit a star 128 light years away from Earth.

A detailed description of the… read more

Earth-sized planets in habitable zones are more common than previously thought

March 14, 2013

(Credit: Chester Harman)

The number of potentially habitable planets in our galaxy is greater than previously thought, according to a  new analysis by a Penn State researcher, and some of those planets are likely lurking around nearby stars.

“We now estimate that if we were to look at 10 of the nearest small stars we would find about four potentially habitable planets,” said Ravi Kopparapu, an Evan… read more

The closest star system found in a century

March 14, 2013

This image is an artist's conception of the binary system WISE J104915.57-531906 with the Sun in the background (credit: Janella Williams/Penn State)

A pair of stars in the third-closest star system to the Sun has been discovered by an astronomer —  the closest star system discovered since 1916.

The discovery was made by Kevin Luhman, an associate professor of astronomy and astrophysics at Penn State University and a researcher in Penn State’s Center for Exoplanets and Habitable Worlds.

The star system,  named “WISE J104915.57-531906″ (discovered in a map by… read more

Untangling life’s origins

The "Big Bang" of protein evolution
March 13, 2013


Researchers in the Evolutionary Bioinformatics Laboratory at the University of Illinois in collaboration with German scientists have been using bioinformatics techniques to probe the world of proteins for answers to questions about the origins of life.

Proteins are formed from chains of amino acids and fold into three-dimensional structures that determine their function. According to crop sciences professor Gustavo Caetano-Anollés, very little is known about… read more

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