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Researchers peek at the structure of the viral Internet

March 13, 2013

viral search

At Microsoft Research’s annual technology demo day this week, researchers showed off a tool called Viral Search that attempts to measure virality in its more literal sense. That means not overall traffic over time, but the mechanics by which it passes from person to person over many generations, MIT Technology Review reports.

The software looked at 1.4 billion Tweets over the course of a year… read more

NASA rover finds conditions once suited for ancient life on Mars

March 13, 2013


An analysis of a rock sample collected by NASA’s Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes.

Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon — some of the key chemical ingredients for life — in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater on the Red Planet last month.

“A fundamental… read more

Designing interlocking building blocks to create complex tissues

March 13, 2013

The image above illustrates mathematical modeling of the migration of mesenchymal stem cells (encapsulated in cylinders) in response to signals released by endothelial cells (encapsulated in rectangles). The color intensity corresponds to concentration, and the arrows represent directions of cell motion. (Credit: George Eng/U)

Columbia University researchers have developed a new “plug-and-play” method to assemble complex cell microenvironments in a scalable, highly precise way to fabricate tissues with any spatial organization or interest — such as those found in the heart or skeleton or vasculature.

The lock-and-key technique can be used to build cellular assemblies using a variety of shapes that lock into templates like LEGO building blocks, according… read more

A high-resolution endoscope as thin as a human hair

March 13, 2013


Engineers at Stanford University have developed a prototype single-fiber endoscope that is as thin as a human hair, with a resolution four times better than previous devices of similar design.

The “micro-endoscope” is a significant step forward in high-resolution, minimally invasive bioimaging, with potential applications in research and clinical practice. Micro-endoscopy could enable new methods in diverse fields ranging from study of the brain to early cancer… read more

Sleep discovery could lead to therapies that improve memory

But a medical study found increased risk of death from taking sleeping pills
March 13, 2013


A team of sleep researchers led by UC Riverside psychologist Sara C. Mednick has confirmed the mechanism that enables the brain to consolidate memory and found that a commonly prescribed sleep aid enhances the process.

Those discoveries could lead to new sleep therapies that will improve memory for aging adults and those with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and schizophrenia.

Earlier research found a correlation between sleep spindles —… read more

Stanford psychologists uncover brain-imaging inaccuracies

March 12, 2013

The researchers found that traditional methods of processing fMRI data may lead scientists to overlook smaller brain structures, thus skewing their results (credit:

Traditional methods of fMRI analysis systematically skew which regions of the brain appear to be activating, potentially invalidating hundreds of papers that use the technique, according to Stanford School of Medicine researchers.

Pictures of brain regions “activating” are by now a familiar accompaniment to any neurological news story (including some in KurzweilAI — see Editor’s note below). With functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, you can see… read more

iPad explores quantum computing

March 12, 2013


A new section in Lockheed Martin’s LM Tomorrow, a free app for iPad users, explores quantum physics in an interactive, easy-to-understand format. The LM Tomorrow app received the gold-level “W3 Award” in 2012 for creative excellence on the web.

The Quantum Theory section draws on expanding research into the  potential of quantum computing to solve challenges ranging from designing lifesaving new drugs to instantaneously… read more

China’s next-generation Internet is a world-beater

March 12, 2013

Artist rendering of city-sized cloud computing and office complex being built in China (IBM)

An open-access report published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society last week details China’s advances in creating a next-generation Internet that is on a national level and on a larger scale than anything in the West, New Scientist reports.

At the root of the problem are “two major gaps in the architecture of the Internet”, according to a report from the… read more

Making cloud computing more efficient

For database-driven applications, new software could reduce hardware requirements by 95 percent while actually improving performance
March 12, 2013

Max throughput prediction for different resource models (credit: Barzan Mozafari et al.)

MIT researchers are developing a new system called DBSeer that should help solve problems with cloud-computing services, such as inefficient use of virtual machines,  pricing of cloud services, and  diagnosis of application slowdowns.

For many companies, moving their web-application servers to the cloud is an attractive option, since cloud-computing services can offer economies of scale, extensive technical support and easy accommodation of demand fluctuations.… read more

Engineers develop techniques to boost efficiency of cloud computing infrastructure

March 12, 2013

Percentage of Gmail backend server jobs within various locality score ranges (credit: Clarity)

Computer scientists at the University of California, San Diego and Google have developed a novel approach that allows the massive infrastructure powering cloud computing as much as 15 to 20 percent more efficiently.

This novel model has already been applied at Google.

Computer scientists looked at a range of Google web services, including Gmail and search. They used a unique approach to develop their… read more

Bioteeth generated from your own cells

March 12, 2013

Current design of a dental implant (credit: American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons)

Researchers are developing a method to replace missing teeth with new bioengineered teeth generated from a person’s own gum cells.

Current implant-based methods of whole tooth replacement fail to reproduce a natural root structure and as a consequence of the friction from eating and other jaw movement, loss of jaw bone can occur around the implant.

Research towards producing bioengineered teeth (bioteeth) has largely focused on generating… read more

Global Grand Challenges Summit March 12–13 to be webcast live

March 11, 2013


The inaugural Global Grand Challenges Summit, an unprecedented gathering of technological thought leaders, will be webcast live from London on March 12–13.

The Royal Academy of Engineering, the U.S. National Academy of Engineering, and the Chinese Academy of Engineering are hosting the event to foster global collaboration to tackle 14 “game-changing” engineering goals.

The summit will include presentations from Microsoft’s Bill Gates, genome pioneer J. Craig Venter, former DARPA… read more

Cloud-computing ‘Internet for robots’ launched

March 11, 2013


Researchers of five European universities have developed the RoboEarth Cloud Engine, a cloud-computing platform for robots.

The platform allows robots connected to the Internet to directly access the powerful computational, storage, and communications infrastructure of modern data centers — the giant server farms behind the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon — for robotics tasks and robot learning.

The new platform extends earlier work… read more

Solving the ‘cocktail party problem’: how we can focus on one speaker in noisy crowds

March 11, 2013

This is a cartoon illustrating the idea that at a cocktail party the brain activity synchronizes to that of an attended speaker, effectively putting them ‘on the same wavelength’ (credit: Zion-Golumbic et al./Neuron)

Researchers have demonstrated how the brain hones in on one speaker to solve the “cocktail party problem.”

Researchers discovered that the brain can selectively track the sound patterns from the speaker of interest and at the same time exclude competing sounds from other speakers.

The findings could have important implications for helping individuals with a range of deficits such as those associated with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,… read more

Plasmonic nanoparticles increase solar-cell output for near-infrared region

March 11, 2013

New solar cell plasmonic-excitonic design using gold nanoshells achieves a 35% enhancement in photocurrent in the performance-limiting near-infrared spectral region (credit: Daniel Paz-Soldan et al./NANO Letters)

A new technique developed by University of Toronto Engineering Professor Ted Sargent and his research group could lead to significantly more efficient solar cells by improving efficiency in colloidal quantum dot photovoltaics, a technology which already promises inexpensive, more efficient solar cell technology.

Quantum-dot photovoltaics offers the potential for low-cost, large-area solar power. However, these devices are not yet highly efficient in the infrared portion… read more

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