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Proteins remember the past to predict the future

October 5, 2012

Motor_Proteins

The most efficient machines remember what has happened to them, and use that memory to predict what the future holds.

That is the conclusion of a theoretical study by Susanne Still, a computer scientist at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and her colleagues, and it should apply equally to “machines” ranging from molecular enzymes to computers, Nature News reports. The finding could help to improve scientific… read more

Sperm and eggs created in dish produce mouse pups

October 5, 2012

mouse_pups

After producing normal mouse pups last year using sperm derived from stem cells, a Kyoto University team of researchers has now accomplished the same feat using eggs created the same way, Science Now reports. The study may eventually lead to new ways of helping infertile couples conceive.

The stem cells in both cases are embryonic stem (ES) cells and induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. The former are taken… read more

What campuses can learn from online teaching

October 8, 2012

edx_announcement

Also see the three related posts today (below). — Ed.

Higher education is at a crossroads not seen since the introduction of the printing press, said MIT president L. Rafael Reif* in The Wall Street Journal.

“Residential education’s long-simmering financial problem is reaching a crisis point,” he said. “At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other campuses, the upheaval today is coming from the technological change posed by… read more

Does online education need to be free to succeed?

October 8, 2012

salman_khan

Also see the three related posts today (below). — Ed.

According to venture capitalists and entrepreneurs,  technology will “disrupt” education as we know it, and maybe create a few billion-dollar companies along the way (see “The Crisis in Higher Education”), says Technology Review.

According to Dow Jones VentureSource, VCs invested $217 million in digital education companies during the first half of 2012 — more than… read more

The future of online vs. residential education

October 8, 2012

In this correspondence (posted with permission), Ray Kurzweil and MIT president L. Rafael Reif discuss the future of online education and its impacts on residential education. Also see the three related posts today (below). — Ed.

Hi Rafael,

I enjoyed your insightful piece in today’s WSJ on the emergence and future of online education. It eloquently makes the point that online teaching is here to stay. But I… read more

Declassified at last: Air Force’s supersonic flying saucer schematics

October 8, 2012

fig-2-cutaway-of-aircraft-structure-e1348157629308

The National Archives has recently published never-before-seen schematics and details of a 1950s military venture, called Project 1794, which aimed to build a supersonic flying saucer, Wired Danger Room reports.

In a memo dating from 1956, the results from pre-prototype testing are summarized and reveal exactly what the developers had hoped to create.

The saucer was supposed to reach a top speed of “between Mach 3… read more

The most complex synthetic biology circuit yet

New sensor can detect four different molecules, could be used to program cells to precisely monitor their environments
October 8, 2012

Mining circuits from genomic islands. a, The truth table for an<br />
AND gate. b, The architecture of an AND gate. The protein–protein and<br />
protein–DNAinteractions that can lead to crosstalk between gates are shown as<br />
red rectangles. c

Christopher Voigt, an associate professor of biological engineering at MIT,.and his students have developed circuit components that don’t interfere with one another, allowing them to produce the most complex synthetic circuit ever built.

The circuit integrates four sensors for different molecules. Such circuits could be used in cells to precisely monitor their environments and respond appropriately.

Background: the big burrito

Using genes as interchangeable parts,… read more

The sleeping brain behaves as if it’s remembering something

Working-memory-like persistent activity occurred in the entorhinal cortex during sleep and even under anesthesia
October 8, 2012

In the background is an entorhinal cortex neuron that was studied. The blue-green trace shows neocortical slow oscillation while the yellow trace shows the persistent activity of entorhinal cortical neuron, even when the inputs from neocortex were silent. (Credit: Thomas T. G. Hahn, et al/UCLA)

UCLA researchers have discovered that the activity of a brain region known to be involved in learning, memory and Alzheimer’s disease behaves as if it’s remembering something during sleep, even under anesthesia — a finding that counters conventional theories about memory consolidation during sleep.

The research team simultaneously measured the activity of single neurons from multiple parts of the brain involved in memory formation. The technique allowed them to… read more

Self-braking cars will save thousands of lives

October 8, 2012

car_crash

How effective are systems that warn a driver about an impending front collision, then slam on the brakes if the driver doesn’t act quickly enough?

A lot, says a paper recently published in IEEE Transactions on Intelligent Transportation Systems, IEEE Spectrum Tech Talk reports.

Researchers at Virginia Tech’s Center for Injury Biomechanics studied systems that rely on radar to tell the car when it is coming… read more

The CIA and Jeff Bezos bet on quantum computing

October 8, 2012

dwave_ones_in_the_lab_large

With funding from Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and the CIA’s investment arm, the Canadian company D-Wave Systems is gaining momentum for its revolutionary approach to computing, Technology Review reports.

D-Wave’s supercooled processor is designed to handle what software engineers call “optimization” problems, the core of conundrums such as figuring out the most efficient delivery route, or how the atoms in a protein will move around when it meets… read more

A simple way to cloak objects at microwave frequencies to improve transmission

October 8, 2012

sylinteri

A metal object can be made invisible to to electromagnetic radiation at microwave frequencies by approximately 70 per cent with the help of ordinary plastic, Aalto University researchers have shown.

In practical terms, this means that electromagnetic waves travelling, for example, between two antennas, do not detect an object located in their path, allowing the waves to travel the distance between them despite the obstacle, without any disruption… read more

Brainless slime mold uses external spatial ‘memory’ to navigate complex environments

Slime mold smarter than some robots
October 9, 2012

Photograph of P. polycephalum plasmodium showing (A) extending pseudopod, (B) search front, (C) tubule network, and (D) extracellular slime<br />
deposited where the cell has previously explored. The food disk containing the inoculation of plasmodial culture is depicted at (E).

They only have a single cell — no brain, but slime molds “remember” where they’ve been.

How? The brainless slime mold Physarum polycephalum constructs a form of spatial “memory” by avoiding areas it has previously explored, researchers at University of Sydney and Université Toulouse III have discovered.

“As it moves, the plasmodium leaves behind a thick mat of nonliving, translucent, extracellular slime,” the scientists said in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, October 8.… read more

Moore’s Law threatened by lithography woes

October 9, 2012

707px-Extreme_ultraviolet_lithography_tool

Moore’s Law is losing steam due to delayed introduction of next-generation extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV), said experts at the 2012 International Symposium on Extreme Ultraviolet Lithography, EE Times reports.

EUV systems need light sources that are nearly 20 times more powerful than the ones used today to lay down patterns on next-generation chips that target sizes as small as 14 nm. Lithography experts said that… read more

New imaging technologies transforming medicine

October 9, 2012

fantastic-voyage

A new wave of imaging technologies is transforming the practice of medicine, The New York Times reports, to give doctors an instantaneous diagnosis, as well as inexpensive systems, often based on smartphones, that can extend advanced imaging technologies to the entire world.

Driven largely by the falling cost of computing and the increasing availability of other miniaturization technologies, including nanotechnology, they include:

  • Endoscopes that use

read more

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012 awarded to Gurdon, Yamanaka

October 9, 2012

Gurdon - Yamanaka

The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has awarded The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2012 jointly to John B. Gurdon and Shinya Yamanaka for the discovery that mature cells can be reprogrammed to become pluripotent.

The Nobel Prize recognizes two scientists who discovered that mature, specialized cells can be reprogrammed to become immature cells capable of developing into all tissues of the body. Their findings have revolutionized our… read more

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