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The Computer at Nature’s Core

February 10, 2004

The computational worldview — that the universe itself is governed by the laws of computation and is, in fact, a computer — is the death of the notion that technology is applied science.

If both the physical universe and the biological world are best understood in terms of information and computation, it no longer makes sense to think that technology results from an application of science. Indeed, if computation… read more

The computing trend that will change everything

April 10, 2012

computer_trend_600

The electrical efficiency of computing (the number of computations that can be completed per kilowatt-hour of electricity used) has doubled every year and a half since the dawn of the computer age.

The power needed to perform a task requiring a fixed number of computations will continue to fall by half every 1.5 years (or a factor of 100 every decade). As a result, even smaller and less power-intensive computing devices… read more

The consequences of machine intelligence

October 28, 2012

race_against_the_machine

In their 2011 book, Race Against The Machine: How the Digital Revolution is Accelerating Innovation, Driving Productivity, and Irreversibly Transforming Employment and the Economy, authors Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee argued that “technological progress is accelerating innovation even as it leaves many types of workers behind,” says Rice University professor of computational engineering Moshe Y. Vardi in The Atlantic.

“While the loss of millions of jobs over the past… read more

The Consumer Genetic Testing Industry Strikes Back

July 27, 2010

Last Thursday, the Government Accountability Office presented Congress with a damning report on the consumer genetic testing industry, concluding many tests are “misleading and of little or no practical use.” Company leaders and some geneticists, responding via blog and twitter, have called the report one-sided and unscientific, citing concern it will do irreparable harm to the nascent industry.

One of the main criticisms is that the GAO did… read more

The cosmic web unveiled: observing ‘dim matter’ in 3D

May 1, 2014

cosmic_web

Caltech astronomers have taken unprecedented 3D images of the intergalactic medium (IGM) — the diffuse gas that connects galaxies throughout the universe, proving that the speculated “dim matter” of the universe exists.

Theoreticians have predicted since the 1980s that primordial gas from the Big Bang is not spread uniformly throughout space, but is instead distributed in channels that span galaxies and flow between them. This “cosmic web” —… read more

The cosmological supercomputer

How the Bolshoi simulation evolves the universe all over again
October 3, 2012

cosmic_web

Most of the ordinary matter in the universe — the stuff that makes up all the atoms, stars, and galaxies astronomers can see — is invisible, either sprinkled throughout intergalactic space in tenuous forms that emit and absorb little light or else swaddled inside galaxies in murky clouds of dust and gas, Joel R. Primack writes in IEEE Spectrum.

When astronomers look out into the night… read more

The cost of bin Laden: $3 trillion over 15 years

May 17, 2011

By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.

Certainly, in the course of the fight against bin Laden, the United States escaped another truly catastrophic attack on our soil. Al-Qaida,… read more

The Creativity Crisis

July 12, 2010

American creativity scores have been falling since 1990, College of William & Mary researchers have discovered.

One likely culprit is the number of hours kids now spend in front of the TV and playing videogames rather than engaging in creative activities. Another is the lack of creativity development in our schools.

Meanwhile, other countries — in Europe and China especially — are making creativity development a national priority.… read more

The Crowd Is Wise (When It’s Focused)

July 20, 2009

Open-innovation models succeed only when carefully designed for a particular task and when the incentives are tailored to attract the most effective collaborators, say collective-intelligence experts.

The cultural genome: Google Books reveals traces of fame, censorship and changing languages

December 20, 2010

Four_percent_of_all_the_boo

Harvard University researchers have been analyzing the more than 15 million books scanned by Google, which created a massive electronic library that represents 12% of all the books ever published.

As the team says, the corpus “will furnish a great cache of bones from which to reconstruct the skeleton of a new science.”

There are strong parallels to the completion of the human genome. Just as that… read more

The cyberweapon that could take down the Internet

February 14, 2011

A new cyberweapon could take down the entire Internet — and there’s not much that current defenses can do to stop it, says Max Schuchard at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and colleagues,

The attack would pit the structure of the Internet against itself. The attack requires a large botnet — a network of computers infected with software that allows them to be externally controlled: Schuchard… read more

The cyborg in us all

September 19, 2011

Electrocorticographic (ECoG) implant (credit: Albany Medical College)

Gerwin Schalk studies Albany Medical Center patients who have become some of the world’s first cyborgs, with brain implants. Schalk transforms the brain signals emitted by their thoughts into software commands.

He is, in effect, designing a button that the mind could push. He dreams of letting people speak with their neurons, issuing silent commands to their machines. The project is part of a $6.3 million Army initiative to invent… read more

The dangers of a high-information diet

January 15, 2010

Does the recent explosion in available information, primarily thanks to the Internet, bring dangers we have not anticipated? Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, fears that it might.

(World Bank)

The dangers of ‘e-personality’

March 11, 2011

Excessive use of the Internet, cell phones, and other technologies can cause us to become more impatient, impulsive, forgetful and narcissistic according to a new book on “e-personality,” says psychiatrist Elias Aboujaoude, MD, clinical associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and director of Stanford University’s impulse control and obsessive-compulsive disorder clinics, in a new book, Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality.

Drawing from his… read more

The dark side of animation

June 12, 2009

Custom animation in PowerPoint lectures negatively impacts student learning, University of North Carolina researchers have found.

Animated slides meant to present information incrementally actually require greater concentration, which makes it harder to remember content as well as reducing overall exposure time to the “complete” slide, the researchers found.

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