science + technology news

Evogrid: simulating the chemical origins of life on Earth

March 15, 2010

Digital Space CEO Bruce Damer presented on BBC World Service program “The Forum” Sunday his vision of the EvoGrid — a worldwide, cross-disciplinary effort to create a digital simulation of the chemical origins of life on Earth from complex combinations of atoms.

The concept is to model the most primitive cell by “converting a corner of the Internet into a digital primordial soup… read more

How to train a robot to do complex abstract thinking

February 16, 2018

Robot inspects cooler, ponders next step (credit: Intelligent Robot Lab / Brown University)

Robots are great at following programmed steps. But asking a robot to “move the green bottle from the cooler to the cupboard” would require it to have abstract representations of these things and actions, plus knowledge of its surroundings.

(“Hmm, which of those millions of pixels is a ‘cooler,’ whatever than means? How do I get inside it and also the ‘cupboard’? …”)

To help robots answer these… read more

Spinal cord stem cells could be basis of new treatment

July 22, 2008

A researcher at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory has pinpointed stem cells within the spinal cord that, if persuaded to differentiate into more healing cells and fewer scarring cells following an injury, may lead to a new, non-surgical treatment for debilitating spinal-cord injuries.

MIT news

Whales boast the brain cells that ‘make us human’

November 28, 2006

Whales have spindle neurons — specialised brain cells that are involved in processing emotions and helping us interact socially.

The cells occur in parts of the human brain that are thought to be responsible for our social organization, empathy, speech, intuition about the feelings of others, and rapid “gut” reactions.

What is more, whales appear to have had these cells for at least twice as long as humans,… read more

Good-bye, wheelchair, hello exoskeleton

January 5, 2012

Ekso exoskeleton

Early this year Ekso Bionics (formerly known as Berkeley Bionics) will begin selling its Ekso exoskeleton walking suit to rehab clinics in the United States and Europe.

It will allow patients with spinal cord injuries to train with the device under a doctor’s supervision. By the middle of 2012, the company plans to have a model for at-home physical therapy.

Your job is to balance your… read more

Squid May Inspire New Nanolights

January 13, 2004

A Hawaiian squid has a built-in flashlight made up of a previously unknown type of protein that could help researchers design novel nanoreflectors.

Glowing bacteria provide the light source, which is surrounded by stacks of reflective plates. The team notes that the reflectins are “a marked example of natural nanofabrication of photonic structures” and should inspire bottom-up synthesis of new spectroscopic and optic devices.

Printable sensors

March 23, 2010

Printable Sensor

The EU-based 3Plast research consortium is developing special pressure and temperature sensors that can be printed onto plastic film and affixed to objects to recognize a finger’s heat signal without being touched.

The sensor consists of pyroelectrical and piezoelectrical polymers that can be processed in high volumes, by screen printing, for example. The sensor is combined with an organic transistor.

The companies and institutes involved from industry and… read more

Two major advances in autonomous technologies that rival human abilities

Google Duplex voice technology and Boston Dynamics' robot advances push the boundaries
May 12, 2018

Atlas jump

Google Duplex

Google’s new artificial-intelligence Google Duplex voice technology for natural conversations, introduced at the Google I/O event this past week, cleverly blurs the line between human and machine intelligence.

Here are two impressive examples of Duplex’s natural conversations on phone calls (using different voices):

Duplex scheduling a hair salon appointment:

Duplex calling a restaurant:

Google Duplex is designed* to make its… read more

Obesity gene ‘affects appetite’

July 29, 2008

University College London and King’s College London researchers have found that children carrying a high-risk version of FTO, the first gene linked to obesity in Caucasian populations, find it harder than others to tell when they are full.

The effect of the gene on appetite was the same regardless of age, sex, socioeconomic background and body mass index.

In 2007, Peninsula Medical School and Oxford Universityread more

Silicon oxide chip design could replace flash memory

July 15, 2013

Rice University has built crossbar memory chips based on silicon oxide that show potential for next-generation 3-D memories for computers and consumer devices. (credit: Tour Group/Rice University)

Rice University team led by chemist James Tour has built a 1-kilobit rewritable silicon oxide chip that could surpass the limitations of flash memory in packing density, energy consumption per bit, and switching speed.

Normal operating voltages can repeatedly break and “heal” the channel, which can be read as either a “1” or “0” depending on whether it is broken or intact.… read more

Natural protein stops deadly human brain cancer in mice

December 8, 2006

Scientists from Johns Hopkins and the University of Milan have proven that they can inhibit lethal human brain cancers in mice using a protein that selectively induces positive changes in the activity of cells that behave like cancer stem cells.

The bone morphogenic proteins cause neural stem-cell-like clusters to lose their stem-cell properties, which in turn stops their ability to divide.

Lie-detector glasses offer peek at future of security

January 21, 2004

A lie detector small enough to fit in the eyeglasses of law enforcement officers can tell whether a passenger is a terrorist by analyzing his answer to questions in real time.

The technology, developed by Nemesysco for military, insurance claim and law enforcement use, is being repackaged and retargeted for personal and corporate applications by V Entertainment.

A signal-processing engine, said to use more than 8,000 algorithms each… read more

Mobile Phone Mind Control

April 1, 2010

The NeuroPhone, developed by Dartmouth College researchers, uses signals detected by a wireless EEG headset from Emotiv to select and dial an iPhone contact just by thinking of the person.

(Not to be confused with the Neurophone, developed by Patrick Flanagan.)

New nanomaterial that makes plastic stiffer, lighter and stronger

August 1, 2008

Michigan State University researchers have developed a graphene-based nanomaterial, xGnP Exfoliated Graphite NanoPlatelets, that makes plastic stiffer, lighter and stronger and could result in more fuel-efficient airplanes and cars as well as more durable medical and sports equipment.

In Memory-Bank ‘Dialogue,’ the Brain Is Talking to Itself

December 19, 2006

New recordings of electrical activity in the brain may explain a major part of its function, including how it consolidates daily memories, why it needs to dream and how it constructs models of the world to guide behavior.

The finding by MIT researchers showed that during nondreaming sleep, the neurons of both the hippocampus and the neocortex replayed memories — in repeated simultaneous bursts of electrical activity — of… read more

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